The Embassy of Haiti Hosts Congressional Dinner to Address the Renewal of TPS for Haitians
In the framework of the Haitian government’s efforts to encourage the U.S. government to renew the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted to Haitians following the January 2010 earthquake, a status which is slated to expire on January 22, 2018, the Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C. hosted members of Congress for a working dinner on the evening of Tuesday, September 12. In addition to the elected officials, the dinner brought together representatives of civil society organizations engaged in the movement to renew TPS for Haitians.
According to Ambassador Paul Altidor, this initiative, both by the profile of the guests and the depth of the conversations, reflects the Haitian government’s desire to create a synergy between the various forces advocating for the renewal of TPS. The members of Congress in attendance expressed their willingness to provide their full support to the TPS dossier. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, declared that Haitians in general are exemplary citizens, and he is therefore ready to provide his unwavering support to the TPS renewal movement.
According to some of Haiti’s most prominent and veteran advocates in the U.S. Congress, among them representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson and Alcee Hastings, defending the Haitian cause in the United States has never been easy. For this reason, in addition to their own political support, the elected officials expressed the need for a strong engagement of the Haitian Diaspora in the TPS matter.
The members of Congress also pointed out that in the context of the upcoming 2018 legislative and local elections in the United States, the Haitian Diaspora must put their weight in the balance, even those who are not directly affected by TPS. Congressman Sanford Bishop, Representative of Georgia’s 2nd District, stated that Haitians are an undeniable force in some states and districts, and must use this as an asset for the TPS renewal campaign. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Representative of Texas’s 18th District and member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, asserted that the business community, academia, churches, healthcare workers, and airport workers must make their voices heard to mobilize support for the renewal of TPS.
During the dinner, participants also discussed the idea that TPS holders must express themselves and tell their personal stories in order to sensitize ordinary American citizens who are not familiar with the issue, so they know that TPS recipients are their neighbors, classmates, co-workers, fellow churchgoers, and healthcare providers. The representatives of the civil society organizations advocating for TPS renewal, among them the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), the Haitian Lawyers Association (HLA), and the Open Society Foundations, all affirmed the merits of such a strategy.
The members of Congress reiterated their willingness to put all their political weight in the balance to help the Haitian government obtain an extension of TPS for 18 months. For instance, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Representative of New York’s 9th District, informed the group that she plans to reach out to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other entities within Congress to enlist their support.
This working dinner held at the Embassy of Haiti was the first of a series of such activities to be hosted at the Embassy with key stakeholders as the TPS renewal movement intensifies. It was also the first major meeting between the various actors advocating for the renewal of TPS since the announcement by the Embassy of the creation of a TPS Taskforce and the setting up of a hotline to provide legal guidance to TPS beneficiaries. TPS, which was granted to Haitians following the earthquake of January 12, 2010, expires on January 22, 2018. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security must announce its decision on the renewal of TPS for Haitians at the end of November 2017.