Trump must keep his promise to Haitians

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MICHAEL A. BARNETT, ESQ.
GUEST COMMENTARY

Editor’s note – This is an open letter written to President Trump. This week, the Trump administration extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for six months.

Dear President Trump,
Our friends in the Haitian community need your help. We strongly urge you to instruct the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals living in the United States. The most recent extension is scheduled to expire July 22, 2017 if not renewed by May 23, 2017.

This would be a terrible mistake with dire consequences for the Haitian people.

Haiti has undergone extraordinary tumult resulting from the massive earthquake in 2010, which killed over 230,000 people and displaced and injured millions.

We’ve seen it
We have visited Haiti and we have seen where the bodies were taken north of Port-au-Prince. We saw the mass grave site in Titanyen. That nightmarish situation was compounded by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, in which towns along the southern coast, like Jeremie and Chantal, lost hundreds more lives and were nearly washed out to sea. The many people still reeling from the 2010 earthquake lost everything in the hurricane and were left with nothing to live on.

Today the misery remains much the same post-earthquake; many thousands of people are still living in tents and are barely surviving. There is hardly any sanitary infrastructure; 770,000 people have been sickened and 9,200 have died due to the ongoing cholera epidemic. Meanwhile, the Haitian government is unable to provide basic services to the population.

Worse, not better
Despite the misinformation being sent to USCIS, the situation in Haiti has worsened, not improved. While Haiti continues to make progress in a variety of fields, the scope of the devastation and poverty caused by the earthquake and hurricane make mass deportation unthinkable. At this time, Haiti is not ready to receive approximately 58,000 people into a nation that is dangerously close to collapse.

TPS has been renewed three times since 2011. Failing to renew TPS now when conditions in Haiti are so untenable will undoubtedly cause additional misery and suffering for these people who have already been through enough. Only after living conditions have improved in Haiti, with the help and support of the US Administration, can we fully support changes in immigration status for the Haitian nationals residing in the US.

Bipartisan support
We thank and highly commend Governor Rick Scott, Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, as well as Congressmen Brian Mast, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ted Deutch, and others for supporting the Haitians by urging Secretary Kelly to renew TPS.

President Trump, we ask nothing more of you than that you keep the promise you made to the Haitians when you visited Little Haiti in September 2016, and you stated:

“The Haitian American community deserves our gratitude and our respect. I want you to know you have my respect…The Haitian people deserve better, and I intend to give them better…and whether you vote for me or you don’t vote for me, I really want to be your greatest champion. And I will be your champion whether you vote for me or not…”

Mr. President, this is the perfect opportunity to be a champion for the Haitians. No matter what the outcome, we fully support you and trust you to make the right decision. Please renew TPS for Haiti.

Mr. Michael A. Barnett is chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County. This letter was co-signed by Madgie Nicolas, advisor for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and Haitian American Women for Trump, and David I. Shiner, general counsel of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County. 

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