Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rep. Towns Urges Secretary Napolitano to Grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status...

U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has joined a bi-partisan congressional coalition, urging Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to grant temporary protected status to 30,000 Haitian refugees who currently face deportation.

After four storms pummeled Haiti last summer, tens of thousands of Haitian residents are struggling against food shortages and lack of adequate housing. According to a recent New York Times article, the Haitian government is seeking temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants currently living in the United States. Without it, many say a large number of deportees could further weaken the stability of the country, which is experiencing a wave of political violence and civil unrest.

“The situation in Haiti is dire: families are starving, communities are in disrepair, and people are desperate,” said Rep. Towns. “We need to take action immediately to grant temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants living right here in America. Doing so will allow these hard-working Brooklynites to continue working so they can send money back to Haiti for their families in Haiti while the country stabilizes.”

Towns signed onto a letter yesterday with sixteen Members of Congress, asking that temporary protected status be granted to Haitian refugees – a designation extended to other countries when hit by similar disasters.

The signatories include: U.S. Reps. Edolphus Towns, Kendrick B. Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Robert Wexler, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, Corrine Brown, Donna Edwards, Michael E. McMahon, William D. Delahunt, Bob Filner, Joseph Crowley, Raul M. Grijalva, Jose E. Serrano, and Barbara Lee.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Secretary Napolitano,

We would like to first congratulate you on your recent confirmation as Secretary of Homeland Security. We also write to express our outrage over the continuing deportations of Haitians in the United States and urge you to immediately grant Haitian immigrants in the United States Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

This past summer, only months after deadly food riots, Haiti was hit by four back-to-back hurricanes and tropical storms. Thousands lost their homes, many were left starving and isolated from humanitarian assistance, nearly 800 lives were taken, and as of last month, over 300 people remain missing. Though recovery efforts have slowly commenced, much of Haiti remains in a state of destruction. Up to 40,000 people are in shelters, and severe malnutrition concerns have arisen throughout rural areas.

The Bush administration recognized these conditions and commendably chose to halt deportation flights to Haiti. However, without prior warning or adequate explanation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chose to resume deportations. Even worse, deportations are still occurring at alarming rates and under disturbing conditions.

As you know, TPS may be granted when any of the following conditions are met: there is ongoing armed conflict posing a serious threat to personal safety; it is requested by a foreign state that temporarily cannot handle the return of nationals due to environmental disaster; or when extraordinary and temporary conditions in a foreign state exist which prevent aliens from returning. Now, more than ever, Haiti continues to meet all of the requirements for TPS.

In December, your predecessor determined that Haiti did not meet the standards for TPS. Given the overwhelming challenges with which Haiti has been forced to contend over the past year, and the dire humanitarian crisis facing this small struggling nation, we urge you to reverse this decision and grant Haitians in the United States TPS, or at the very least, resume the halt on deportations pending further policy review.

As Haiti’s humanitarian crisis becomes increasingly dire and the nation’s struggle for economic stability and sustainable development is further delayed, it is only a matter of time before a humanitarian crisis becomes a political one threatening the stability of Haiti and our entire region. TPS is the least expensive, most immediate form of humanitarian assistance we can provide, as it allows the Haitian government to invest all of its limited resources in the rebuilding and redevelopment of its struggling economy.

Just 600 miles from our shores, political and economic instability in Haiti impacts our own economy and immigration levels, thereby making it our responsibility to work to ensure Haiti’s long-term stability. The people of Haiti have long suffered through natural destruction, persistent poverty, and repressive regimes. We have a moral obligation to help the people of Haiti sustain and rebuild their country by granting Haitian nationals already residing in the United States TPS.

In keeping with President Obama’s promise to renew America’s global leadership and restore our moral standing, we respectfully ask that you address this extremely critical issue immediately.

We thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you on this and other matters of mutual concern.