Caribbean-born pols welcome TPS for Haitians

≈A number of Caribbean legislators have welcomed the Obama administration’s decision to extend the temporary protected status for Haitians.

“Today, I applaud Secretary Janet Napolitano’s announcement to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitian nationals living in the U.S.,” Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life last week.

“I am glad that Secretary Napolitano heeded the calls from myself, many other lawmakers and Haitian advocacy groups to extend TPS,” added the representative for the 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn, the largest district of Caribbean immigrants in the United States.

“This, indeed, marks a significant step forward in helping the Haitian Diaspora,” Clarke continued.

On Jan. 11, Clarke, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), with the support of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.), sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama asking that the United States extend the expiration date of TPS from Jul. 22, 2011 to July 22, 2012. Seven U.S. senators and 37 members of the U.S. Congress signed the letter.

“As the representative of the second largest population of Haitian immigrants in the United States (second to Miami), I see how important TPS is for the Haitian Diaspora,” Clarke said.

“Remittances sent back by those with TPS are integral to the families on the ground, the nation’s extremely fragile economy and will continue to alleviate burdens on American financial assistance. It is extremely important to ensure that the Haitian people have all the resources they need to recover from the earthquake,” she added.

“Let us continue to stand with the people of Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, as they unite to implement a long-term recovery strategy in Haiti,” the congresswoman continued.

New York City Council member Dr. Mathieu Eugene, the first Haitian to be elected to the council, said he was “ecstatic” that his persistence paid off.

“I’m excited. I‘m so happy,” he told Caribbean Life. “I’m speechless to see, finally, they’ve extended TPS for Haitians, because, every single day, people have been calling me to see what will happen to them. They don’t want to go back to Haiti.

“I’m so grateful to the president for this for Haiti,” added the representative for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn.

“They’re (Haitians) now able to work in the United States and send money to take care of their families back in Haiti,” continued Eugene, who has been in the vanguard for TPS for his compatriots.

Before Haiti was designated to receive TPS, Eugene introduced Resolution 1595, calling on the federal government to designate Haiti for TPS, which was adopted overwhelmingly by the New York City Council.

In March, Eugene hosted a press conference on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan in support of another resolution, 648, urging the federal government to extend the designation of TPS. The resolution was adopted by the City Council at the March 23 “Stated Meeting.”

Councilman Jumaane Williams, the Grenadian-American representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, whose district juxtaposes Eugene’s, said he was “so gratified to hear that President Obama has not only extended Temporary Protected Status but even expanded the program to include Haitians who came to the United States after the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010.

“Haiti is still in desperate need of financial support from the Diaspora, and this extension will go a long way towards helping the country get back on its feet,” he said.

“It is our moral responsibility to assure that Haitians currently in the United States have the ability to work in order to provide support for their loved ones in Haiti and contribute to their country’s recovery,” he added.

Williams took the opportiunity to announce that the 45th District Haitian Relief Effort will be re-activating its mobile clinics “to provide trustworthy and accurate information, as well as assistance with paperwork.”