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Tidal Wave of Pressure on Biden Administration to Act Urgently to Redesignate Haiti for TPS

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Yesterday, 69 U.S. Representatives signed on to a letter sent to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressing “serious and urgent concerns” about the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Haiti and urging the redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country. Hundreds of advocates continued to escalate their pressure with a separate letter organized by the Haitian Bridge Alliance Tuesday asking the Biden Administration to immediately redesignate Haiti for TPS, citing the deteriorating conditions and human rights abuses taking place on the island.

The letters come just weeks after Reps. Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and another by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) urging TPS redesignation for Haiti. Combined, these efforts signal an overwhelming outcry of support for the Biden Administration to immediately stop deportations to Haiti and urgently protect current Haitian TPS holders and those already here in the U.S. who would benefit from a TPS redesignation.

The full text of the letter from the 69 members of the U.S. House of Representatives can be read here with key excerpts below:

“We write to express our serious and urgent concerns regarding the quickly deteriorating situation in Haiti. Although we appreciate your personal engagement with Haiti, and the State Department’s recent criticism of some of the unconstitutional actions by the administration of President Jovenel Moïse, we believe it is past time for a more significant review of U.S. policy in Haiti.

… Listen to the voices of Haitian civil society and grassroots organizations, who have been clear that no elections under the current administration in Haiti will be free, fair, and credible. The State Department should instead focus on the underlying democratic legitimacy issues identified by Haiti’s civil society and support a Haiti-led process for change. Elections held without meeting internationally accepted standards for participation and legitimacy will only further undermine faith in democratic governance, waste scarce resources and perpetuate a cycle of political instability and violence.

Support the redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian migrants living in the U.S. and put a temporary freeze on all Title 42 related expulsions to Haiti. We note that, amid the current political crisis, the Department of Homeland Security has expelled more than an estimated 1,500 individuals to Haiti just since early February, despite awareness that those returned to Haiti “may face harm.” It is vital that the U.S. comply with U.S. and international legal obligations and allow all migrants access to the asylum system.”

The letter signed by hundreds of advocates can be read here, with key excerpts from Rafael Bernal’s reporting on the development below: 

A group of hundreds of immigration advocates, media personalities, human rights activists and representatives of international non-governmental organizations on Tuesday called on the Biden administration to re-designate Haiti under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.

In a letter addressed to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the group laid out a dire portrait of conditions in Haiti.

“With an increasingly authoritarian president who has been ruling unconstitutionally without a parliament for over a year, now claiming his mandate extends through January 2022, and with well-attended daily protests in response, the political situation is unstable, fragile and extremely dangerous,” wrote the advocates.

… A re-designation of Haitian TPS would protect the existing TPS beneficiaries, plus any Haitian nationals who have arrived to the United States since the last designation in 2017. By most estimates, the number of protected Haitians would more or less double under a new designation.

While campaigning in South Florida in 2020, President Biden promised to review Haiti’s TPS designation, and to stop deportations to the country.

More than 300,000 Haitian Americans are registered to vote in Florida, and that community has close ties to the Haitian documented and undocumented immigrants who would be most affected by a TPS designation.

Still, Biden has avoided a TPS designation for Haiti, while issuing designations for Venezuela, Myanmar and Syria.

“At the same time Venezuela received TPS, Haiti was on the desk,” said Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, which coordinated the letter.

“It was a no-brainer for Venezuela and it’s a no-brainer for Haiti,” added Phillips.

… Still, advocates have not received a response on why the administration is holding back on the Haitian TPS designation, a move that on its face would seem a repudiation of Trump’s draconian approach to regional migration.

And the fact that Trump called majority-Black Haiti a “shithole country” angered the U.S. Black community, which sees in the historical treatment of Haiti another example of global anti-Black racism.

Among the letter’s signatories are the Rev. Jesse Jackson and BLM founders Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza.