July 12, 2010

Gillibrand Praises Extension Of Deadline To Apply For Temporary Protected Status To Haitians

Gillibrand Was First Lawmaker to Urge Obama Administration To Protect Haitians From Violence And Disaster Following Deadly Earthquake 6 Months Ago

Washington, D.C. – Six months after earthquakes devastated Haiti, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today praised President Barack Obama’s decision to extend the application deadline for temporary protected status (TPS) of Haitians living in America. The TPS designation came at the urging of Senator Gillibrand, who was the first lawmaker to push for TPS for Haitians living in America immediately following the earthquakes six months ago. About 70,000 to 100,000 Haitians, most living in Florida and New York, are eligible.  More than 55,700 had applied as of Friday.


“The camera crews may have left but the disaster in Haiti still persists,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Many Haitian families in New York and across the country have already experienced a lifetime of anguish. I want to thank President Obama for extending the application deadline for Haitians living in America for temporary protected status so they can live without fear of having to immediately return to a country still trying to dig out from the horrific earthquakes.”

President Obama’s decision extends the deadline for Haitians in America to apply for TPS an additional six months.

Senator Gillibrand, who visited Haiti in April, has also pushed the Administration to waive the administrative fees that individuals must pay to apply for TPS. The fees to apply for TPS is $470, which is cost prohibitive for many impoverished Haitians.  According to USCIS, approximately 92 percent of the fees have been waived in recent cases.

Senator Gillibrand’s original letter to President Obama is below:


January 13, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.
20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian nationals currently residing within our borders.  The earthquake that occurred yesterday, January 12, 2010, has devastated the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and the chaos that has ensued puts all the citizenry of that country at risk.  Now is certainly not the time to deport Haitians into an overly burdened country.  

Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was already facing a humanitarian crisis due to the four major hurricanes that ravaged Haiti in 2008 and was exacerbated by the country’s extreme poverty.  The earthquake yesterday has brought the operations of the country to a complete standstill.  Many reports from Haiti describe the damage as “near total destruction” of all buildings, including hospitals, the Presidential palace, homes and many Embassies.  The phone and electrical systems are inoperable and emergency services are nearly non-existent.  TPS is needed because there is no way to safely return Haitian citizens to their country.  The United States granted TPS to Honduras and Nicaragua in 1999, following Hurricane Mitch, and to El Salvador in 2001, following several earthquakes.  As the program is designed, TPS would only be available to Haitians already living in the United States.  

Haiti clearly meets the criteria for TPS designation and extending it would be one way to help address this catastrophe, as well as alleviate additional burdens on American assistance workers.  We respectfully request that you grant TPS to Haitian nationals as soon as possible. 

 
Sincerely,

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
U.S. Senator