Lawmakers Call for Swift Action Amidst Political, Public Health & Economic Crises on the Island
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Co-Chair of the House Haiti Caucus, and Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07) led 54 of their colleagues calling on the Biden Administration to immediately halt deportations to Haiti and take urgent action to address the concerns of the Haitian Diaspora after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti last month. The lawmakers’ letter follows the Administration’s resumption of deportation flights to Haiti and as thousands of Haitian migrants continue to await an opportunity to make an asylum claim at the border.
“The Biden Administration cannot claim it is doing everything it can to support the Haitian community while continuing to unjustly deport Haitians as the island weathers its worst political, public health and economic crises yet,” said Congresswoman Pressley in a statement alongside the letter. “We have a moral obligation to lead with compassion. That means immediately halting the cruel and callous deportations of our Haitian neighbors and leveraging every resource available to support those fleeing the humanitarian crisis on the island.”
“The people of Haiti have been dealt one tragedy after another through no fault of their own,” said Rep. Velázquez. “People fleeing are at their breaking point: the continued need for recovery after the August earthquake and the protracted political instability after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse have left thousands of Haitians unsure of their country’s future. It is imperative that the United States lead and address the needs of Haiti’s humanitarian crisis with compassion and resolve. That’s why Rep. Pressley and I are urging the Biden Administration to immediately halt deportations and use the appropriate tools available to help vulnerable Haitians find safe haven in the United States.”
Over two thousand Haitians were killed and twelve thousand more have been seriously injured as a result of the earthquake on August 14, 2021, and many cities have been reduced to rubble. This earthquake struck areas of Haiti that were already experiencing extreme vulnerability, with some 4.1 million Haitians—more than a third of the total population—living with food insecurity, and 2.1 percent of children suffering severe malnutrition. All of the conditions leading to the Biden Administration’s original Temporary Protected Status (TPS) redesignation on May 22, 2021, the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7 and now the August 14 earthquake and subsequent tropical storm make safe return to Haiti completely impossible.
In response to these ongoing events, the lawmakers urged the Administration to:
Indefinitely halt deportations to Haiti, release detained Haitians and support administrative closure of removal cases. The lawmakers urged the Biden Administration to prioritize humanitarian relief over increased enforcement, and instruct the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to immediately suspend deportations and expulsions indefinitely for noncitizens who pose no threats to public safety or national security;
Update the TPS “continuous presence” eligibility cut-off date and provide DED protections. The lawmakers called on the Administration to again update the eligibility cutoff date to August 14 or later, and urged it to issue a Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) designation for Haitians in the U.S.;
Provide humanitarian parole for Haitians arriving at the United States/Mexico Border. Citing DHS’ discretionary authority to parole Haitians into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis, the lawmakers urged the Administration to encourage and empower agents and officers to grant humanitarian parole;
Reinstate the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. This would allow certain eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for parole for their family members in Haiti who have approved immigrant visa petitions but cannot reunite with family members due to the years-long backlog in visa processing; and
End the barriers to Haitian vaccine distribution. The lawmakers urged the administration to use all resources available to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Haiti, including leveraging state agencies and the Haitian Diaspora to scale up their current COVID-19 distribution plan in Haiti.
Joining Reps. Pressley and Velázquez in sending the letter are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tom Suozzi, Andre’ Carson, Jim Himes, Val Butler Demings, Dina Titus, Frederica Wilson, Ruben Gallego, Abigail Spanberger, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Judy Chu, Dwight Evans, Terri Sewell, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Barbara Lee, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Cori Bush, Albio Sires, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Anna Eshoo, Ted Deutch, Jan Schakowsky, Sara Jacobs, Juan Vargas, James P. McGovern, Adriano Espaillat, Nikema Williams, Katherine Clark, William Keating, Al Lawson, Karen Bass, Jamaal Bowman, Mike Quigley, Ritchie Torres, Brenda Lawrence, Hakeem Jeffries, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Yvette Clarke, Andy Levin, Carolyn B. Maloney, Gregory W. Meeks, Mondaire Jones, Raúl Grijalva, Darren Soto, Stephen F. Lynch, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jahana Hayes, Ro Khanna, Gerald Connolly, Danny K. Davis, Al Green, Bennie G. Thompson, and Maxine Waters.
Massachusetts is home to the third largest Haitian diaspora community in the country, with approximately 46,000 Haitians and Haitian-Americans living across the state and over half in the Boston metropolitan area. Additionally, Massachusetts is home to more than 4,700 Haitians with Temporary Protected Status.
In May, on Haitian Flag Day, Reps. Pressley, Levin, Clarke and Demings announced the formation of the House Haiti Caucus, a Congressional caucus dedicated to pursuing a just foreign policy that puts the needs and aspirations of the Haitian people first.
In July, the lawmakers issued a statement condemning the assassination of President Moïse and calling for swift and decisive action to bring political stability and peace to Haiti and the Haitian people. Later that month, the lawmakers wrote to DHS Secretary Mayorkas calling on him to take a series of steps to support the Haitian diaspora following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.