Democrats plot TPS strategy as deadline looms

Democrats plot TPS strategy as deadline looms
Associated Press / Alex Brandon, File

A half dozen United States Democratic lawmakers have met with Haiti’s ambassador to the United States in what has been described as an intimate dinner to craft a new strategy aimed at convincing the Trump administration to extend the Temporary Protected Program (TPS) set to expire in January 2018 that allows thousands of Haitians to work and live in the United States.

Democrats said it’s time to tie TPS to recent activism over DACA, an executive order signed by Barack Obama that gave protections to undocumented, young Caribbean and other immigrants brought to the United States as minors, according to the Miami Herald.

“We have to create the atmosphere where the man in the Oval Office says ‘I’m considering it,’” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas.

Democrats argue that repeatedly bringing up TPS during every DACA protest and getting business leaders to realize the disruption to labor markets if 58,000 Haitians are required to leave will increase public pressure on President Donald J. Trump to grant the TPS extension, the Herald said.

“If all the Haitian workers at Fort Lauderdale International Airport left tomorrow, they would have the messiest bathrooms of any airport, even messier than LaGuardia,” said Congressman Alcee Hastings, Democrat of Florida.

Hastings and Jackson Lee said that widespread outrage from Democrats—and business leaders—over President Donald Trump’s decision to end DACA last week created a massive amount of public pressure, according to the Herald.

It noted that the TPS program is administered by the US Homeland Security Department and allows foreign nationals already in the United States from 10 countries to stay in the United States for a designated period of time. TPS was granted to Haiti in 2011 after a massive earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.

When Haiti’s TPS was up for renewal in May, Democrats asked then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to show “compassion.”

But Kelly ultimately decided to extend Haiti’s status, but only for six months instead of the usual 18, reported the Herald.

Kelly also said Haitians “need to start thinking about returning.”

“It’s all or nothing at this point, given the time frame, the consequences, if nothing happens between now and November,” said Haiti ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor. “We’re trying to ensure that as many people from Capitol Hill, from either side of the aisle, are involved in this, and we’ve seen that from members of the Florida delegation.”

Already overwhelmed by Haitian migrants who are being deported from the Dominican Republic, aid agencies in Haiti say they aren’t prepared to handle a possible influx of Haitians enrolled in TPS who could soon be forced to return home, the Herald said.

The dinner was organized by Altidor and New York Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a longtime proponent of extending Haiti’s TPS status, the Herald said.

“We’re going to go to whomever we need to make the case,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

She said bringing TPS into the larger DACA debate “will help combat the spread of misinformation, such as false reports that Canada was offering free residency to Haitians in the United States.”

In June, Kelly told Miami Herald that the United States Congress must find a legislative solution for Haitians in the United States instead of continuously renewing TPS.

Clarke has tabled a bill in the United States House of Representatives that would expand TPS for Haitians living in the United States.