Washington, D.C. – At the urging of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and 18 of her Senate colleagues, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced temporary protected status for Haitians now living in America. Senator Gillibrand made her case to the President the morning after a record-breaking earthquake devastated the capital city of Haiti.
“The extreme loss of life that many are expecting from the disaster in Haiti is heartbreaking and tragic,” Senator Gillibrand said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the New York families that are fearing for their loved ones in Haiti right now. Many of these families have experienced far too much anguish already. I want to thank President Obama for the measures he has taken to rescue Americans, deliver the aid that is needed on the ground in Haiti, and for granting Haitians living in America temporary protected status so they can live without fear of having to immediately return to a country ravaged with devastation.”
This designation will allow Haitians living in America to continue living and working here for the next 18 months.
Senator Gillibrand’s 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.
Kirsten E. Gillibrand