WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly Friday requesting an extension of the existing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 58,000 Haitian nationals currently living in the United States, which expires in July. The Senator also asked the Secretaries to bolster the bilateral relationship between the United States and Haiti.
Senator Cardin said in part, “While Haiti has made important progress towards reconstruction, efforts to rebuild the country and ensure the safe return of Haitian nationals have faced significant setbacks, including the continuing cholera epidemic and a catastrophic hurricane in late 2016. Given the complicated situation in Haiti, an extension of TPS is fully warranted.”
Dear Secretaries Tillerson and Kelly:
I am writing to request that the Administration grant an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals, which expires on July 22, 2017. I also write to request a description of U.S. policy given Haiti’s recent political developments.
After Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, more than 58,000 Haitian nationals received TPS. While Haiti has made important progress towards reconstruction, efforts to rebuild the country and ensure the safe return of Haitian nationals have faced significant setbacks, including the continuing cholera epidemic and a catastrophic hurricane in late 2016. Given the complicated situation in Haiti, an extension of TPS is fully warranted.
As the Department of Homeland Security’s own internal memorandum outlines, an estimated 30 percent of Haiti’s population suffers from food insecurity and 40 percent lacks access to basic health services. These figures are compounded by United Nations data that, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew produced more than 175,000 internally displaced persons, in addition to the 55,000 individuals that remain displaced from the 2010 earthquake.
Given these troubling figures, I am concerned that, as of April 10, 2017, DHS’ internal memorandum notes that Secretary Tillerson had not responded to a request for a recommendation on continuing TPS for Haitians. The failure to renew TPS would have direct implications for U.S. foreign policy, as the potentially disorderly return of more than 50,000 people to Haiti could further complicate food insecurity and strain the country’s health system.
Additionally, after nearly two years of delayed elections and disruption of constitutional order in Haiti, it is imperative that the U.S. articulate a clear policy that prioritizes transparency, accountability, democracy, and good governance. As the Trump Administration evaluates its priorities, I request that you provide a detailed answer to the following questions:
- How will the Trump Administration work with the Government of Haiti to improve governance and implement financial transparency and accountability for government institutions in Haiti, as required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017?
- What steps will the Trump Administration take to work with the Government of Haiti strengthen the rule of law and combat corruption?
Due to Haiti’s ongoing challenges and the potential negative impact of ending TPS, I am concerned that the more than 75 percent cut to assistance for Haiti that Congress approved in the Fiscal Year 2017 Appropriations bill will limit U.S. ability to support the Haitian people.
In closing, I urge you to grant an 18-month extension of TPS for Haitian nationals, a program designed to stand by our values of fairness and compassion toward individuals who cannot otherwise return to a safe environment in their homeland. I also look forward to working with both of your Departments to advance priorities in the U.S.-Haiti bilateral relationship.