(CMC) A bipartisan group of United States lawmakers has introduced a bill in the United States House of Representatives that would provide a path to permanent residency for thousands of foreign citizens, including Haitians, who participate in a temporary program that allows them to work and live in the US.
Miami Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo has introduced the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residency Act.
The bill provides a pathway to permanent legal status for certain Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Hondurans who arrived in the United States before January 13, 2011.
South Florida Democratic Representatives Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings have also signed on to the legislation, which applies to participants in the Temporary Protected Status programme (TPS), along with Miami Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Late last month, a Haitian-born legislator in Brooklyn, New York reiterated his appeal to US President Donald J Trump to extend TPS for undocumented Haitians living in the United States.
Dr Mathieu Eugene, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 40th Council District in Brooklyn, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he is calling on the Trump administration to extend the status granted to almost 60,000 Haitians.
Eugene, the first Haitian to be elected to New York City Council, said he was also re-launching an online petition requesting that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant an 18-month extension of TPS for Haitians and protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), initiated by former US President Barack Obama that Trump plans to rescind. TPS for Haitians is set to expire in January.
Eugene said the online petition has amassed over 30,000 signatures “and has brought much-needed attention to the plight of thousands of immigrants seeking to remain in the US.”
In May, DHS issued a six-month extension of TPS for Haitians, stating that eligible Haitian nationals must be prepared to return to the French-speaking Caribbean country in January 2018.
Eugene said the DHS will formally declare this month if it will keep the six-month extension in place or if it will grant a longer extension to TPS recipients.
The petition also requests support for recipients of the DACA immigration programme, which currently protects over one million young Caribbean and other immigrants, who came to the United States as children, from deportation.
In 2009, Eugene said he “successfully introduced” legislation in New York City Council in support of TPS Haitians. He said he has continued to lobby for its renewal in subsequent years.
Despite being granted TPS, Eugene said Haiti has “suffered additional devastation from four tropical storms, an outbreak of cholera, and, most recently, a destructive hurricane.
“Haiti cannot withstand an influx of over 58,000 people, who would be forced to return to the country if TPS is not extended,” he told CMC.
“That is why I am asking the community to sign this petition and let the federal government know that we need to continue this humanitarian gesture.
“TPS recipients are valued members of our community; they hold jobs and work hard to contribute to our community, our city, and our country,” he added.
“We are also here to support the DREAMERS, young people in the immigrant community, who came here with their families in pursuit of the American dream,” Eugene continued. “This is their homeland; we must do all we can to ensure that their ability to receive an education and pursue their career ambitions is protected under the DACA programme”.