Pressley applauds Biden for protecting Haitian immigrants
President Biden announced May 22 that he has redesignated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti, shielding Haitian refugees from deportation while they stay with their families in the United States.
Supporters for protected status for Haitians and other immigrants, including U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, gathered on a phone call to support the decision and call for a more permanent protected status.
The president’s designation lasts 18 months and would protect many in Boston’s large Haitian community.
“As the representative of the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District, which is home to the third largest Haitian community in the country, I get to see in the community every day the contributions of the Haitian community both to our cultural and economic fabric,” Pressley said during her remarks.
Massachusetts is currently home to more than 4,700 Haitians with protected status.
Pressley said that rather than be charitable to the Haitian community, the federal government should be reciprocating all that Haitians have contributed to this country.
“There is nothing temporary about people who have been contributing to civic and political life, to our cultural vibrancy, to our economy, to our healthcare system, to our community, for decades … So it’s time that we as lawmakers demonstrate our gratitude for the Haitian community,” she said.
Given the last four years of controversial immigration policy by the Trump administration, Pressley was not afraid to discuss the trauma Haitians have gone through.
She called the former president’s administration “cruel” and “callous” and called out Immigration and Customs Enforcement for targeting Black immigrants.
“And then, in the first few months of this new administration, ICE, a rogue and unaccountable agency that I believe is beyond reform, continues to carry out mass deportations of our Haitian neighbors,” she said.
While actively calling for protected status for Haitian immigrants and condemning deportation, Pressley joined her colleagues in Congress on Haitian Flag Day to revive the House Haiti Caucus.
Representatives Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Val Demings (FL-07), Andy Levin (MI-09) and the Massachusetts congresswoman announced May 18 their commitment to the Haitian people and their human rights.
“The Biden administration has taken some key steps to undo the hurt and harm inflicted over the past four years to our immigrant neighbors, but we also have to pursue systemic meaningful changes,” Pressley continued.
The American Dream and Promise Act, she said, is the key to legislating a pathway to permanent protections. The bill, currently in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, provides a pathway to permanent legal status for certain types of immigrants, including those with TPS and those brought to the U.S. as a minor.
Guerline Jozef, of the California-based Haitian Bridge Alliance, spoke in support of the TPS designation and thanked Pressley for her work. She also gave insight into what Haitians are going through currently and why these families need protection.
“We are currently dealing with the second wave of COVID-19 in Haiti. We cannot and must not allow this cruelty from the previous administration to continue today,” Jozef said.
“Today, we are extremely overjoyed at the news that over 150,000 of my Haitian brothers and sisters will be able to work with dignity to provide for their families, away from fear of deportation, away from the cloud of persecution that we have seen,” she said.
Others called on the Senate to pass the American Dream and Promise Act. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said these promises are a step toward a more just and humane immigration system.
“I stand with Congresswoman Pressley’s call for the Senate to take up Dream and Promise … These are improvements that benefit all working people,” Henry said.
In February, Pressley and several other lawmakers, including fellow Haiti Caucus Member Clarke, wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security detailing their concern over the mass deportation of Haitian immigrants.
As a member of the caucus, and working alongside the Biden administration, Pressley plans to continue expressing and investigating concerns that ICE is targeting Black asylum seekers and immigrants.