It has been three weeks since Haitians living in the United States were told they had 18 months to leave and return to their home country. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke made the announcement Nov. 21, stating that their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would not be renewed after the U.S. government decided that the hurricane-ravaged country could support their return.
However, many of the 60,000 Haitians living in the U.S. who would be affected — 5,400 of whom live in New York City, many of them in Brooklyn’s Flatbush, Canarsie, Crown Heights, and East Flatbush neighborhoods, as well as Queens’ Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens, Jamaica and Rosedale — disagree.
Those voices include Brooklyn’s Haitian American and Caribbean American elected officials — Congressmember Yvette D. Clarke (D-Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Brownsville, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay), Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park), Councilmembers Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood) and Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush) — as well as State Senator Kevin Parker (D-East Flatbush, Flatbush, Midwood, Boro Park), who jointly hosted an informational workshop at the Flatbush YMCA this weekend.
Speaking to the standing-room-only crowd, Clarke stated that “this is an important fight” for people who have “given of themselves to their families not only here in the United States, but in their home countries. They are our co-workers, family, neighbors, and they have earned the right to be protected by this nation.”
She also argued that contrary to Duke’s assertion, Haiti, as well as other TPS nations such as El Salvador and Honduras, is still not safe to live in.
“People are here under TPS because there is a threat to life in their previous country due to war or natural disaster or political unease,” Clarke said, adding that that is why “this is inhumane. It is important to speak up.”
Clarke has introduced a bipartisan bill to not just renew TPS every six years, but to create a path to Lawful Permanent Resident Status for any TPS recipient in the U.S. for five years or more as of January 1, 2017, who can “demonstrate extreme hardship.”
Called the ASPIRE-TPS Act of 2017, the bill (H.R.4384) is has 14 co-sponsors, including Republicans from Florida and Utah, and Democrats from Washington, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, and Georgia.
Florida is home to the largest population of Haitian immigrants. New York has the second-largest population of Haiti-born residents.
“We have until July 2018 to renew TPS,” Clarke said. “We’re all family and to see them torn apart flies in the face of what the U.S. stands for. this is inhumane. We are a team and we are making voices heard from the ground up. We will not let TPS lapse and we should not let them divide us.”
In addition to the Aspire TPS Act, Clarke and the other elected officials told residents they can access free and confidential legal services by calling 3-1-1 and saying “ActionNYC.”
According to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, about 15,000 New Yorkers have TPS, and the vast majority are from Haiti (around 5,400 people), El Salvador (around 4,200 people), and Honduras (around 3,000 people) — most of whom have lived and worked in the country for an average of 15 years and care for over 8,000 U.S.-born children.