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Haitian TPS holders seek extension

Trump to decide fate of thousands of workers

Karen Morales
Haitian TPS holders seek extension
At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley rallies with Haitian-Americans United, Inc.

The Temporary Protected Status of an estimated 5,000 Haitians living and working in Massachusetts is under threat from President Trump and the Department of Homeland Security. The Trump administration is expected to decide by Nov. 23 whether to terminate or to extend TPS for 58,000 Haitians who legally live and work in the U.S.

The TPS program allows immigrants from countries devastated by natural disasters or other factors to remain in the U.S. for a limited time. Without an extension, Haitians here under TPS would have to return in January to their homeland, which is suffering still from the effects of a 2010 earthquake, cholera epidemic and other natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Last Sunday, Haitian-Americans United, Inc. hosted a rally at the St. Angela Merici Church in Mattapan to call on Governor Baker and the Massachusetts congressional delegation to urge President Trump to extend TPS for Haitians and other immigrants. The event was supported by the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East group.

HAU and their partners are requesting an 18-month redesignation for Haitian TPS holders living in the U.S.

“[TPS holders] have earned this protection,” said at-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley as she made an appearance at the rally on Sunday. “We should be a country that offers refuge.”

State Representative Bill Driscoll Jr. also offered support.

“As someone that represents Randolph, a community that’s strengthened by immigrants, it breaks my heart to see people in fear,” Driscoll said.“I’ll do everything I can, to take the message to our congressional delegation whose doing a great job to continue the temporary protected status. I will also add my voice in for permanent protected status.”

Besides reasons of compassion and safety, failure to extend TPS could have negative economic effects.

“The loss of employment authorization for these populations would adversely impact several key industries where TPS recipients make up a significant amount of the workforce [in] construction, food processing, hospitality, and home healthcare services,” reads an Oct. 26 letter by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The State Department says conditions have improved enough for TPS holders to return to their home countries. But those at the rally disagreed with that assessment.

“As we speak, Haiti is still confronting some enormous challenges due to calamities that took place over the past eight years,” said Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, Chairman of HAU, referring to the 2010 earthquake that killed close to 300,000 people and displaced about 1 million. The cholera epidemic that broke out soon after the earthquake has infected some 100,000 people.

Faith Andris, Miss Teen Haiti International 2017, offered words of solidarity.

“I may be an American, but I do have family who are TPS holders,” she told rally attendees. “After the earthquake, they came here with TPS, trying to get a better life for their families. … They already have a job, they’re already getting ready to get their credit to buy a house. But seeing that it might be taken away from them really hurts me.”

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