May 19, 2017
ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pictured is U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
Commentary by SETH MOULTON
The United States has always stood as a place of refuge in times of crises, especially for our neighbors.
This week, as we honor Haitian Flag Day and the Trump Administration considers whether or not to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the tens of thousands of Haitians living and working in the United States, we must honor that commitment to our neighbors.
Haitians have a long history here in the United States, from fighting alongside American soldiers in the Revolutionary War, to explorer Jean Baptiste Point du Sable who founded Chicago, to the tens of thousands of Haitian refugees across America, including 84,500 in Massachusetts, who have built their lives here, and contributed to our communities.
This week, the Trump administration will announce whether or not they intend to currently extend TPS for 50,000 Haitian refugees in the United States to enable them to stay while their country tackles insecurity, economic desperation, and health crises.
In the past several years, Haiti has suffered from a series of catastrophic disasters: a devastating earthquake that destroyed 50 healthcare centers and crippled an already-overwhelmed medical system; a cholera epidemic, which killed over 7,000 Haitians and infected at least 530,000, or 5 percent of the population; and Hurricane Matthew that killed 546 Haitians, resulted in nearly $2 billion in damages, and rendered nearly 200,000 Haitians homeless. One of these natural disasters would have crippled Haiti’s already-vulnerable population. Taken together, they have been devastating.
Since the program launched in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended TPS benefits to Haitians multiple times, most recently in August of 2015 — before Hurricane Matthew. The merits of doing so again are apparent — we must allow people to live and work in the United States while Haiti continues to heal.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has not only delayed the process, but taken the unusual step of directing DHS to compile evidence of crimes committed by Haitians and sought to obtain evidence of Haitians with TPS taking advantage of public benefits. Given the sheer disregard for immigrants that this Administration has shown, this is sadly not surprising.
The reality is that applicants for TPS already undergo exhaustive criminal background checks and are required to be fingerprinted and re-checked against criminal databases again when the status is extended. Furthermore, Haitians with TPS are simply not eligible for federal benefits such as SNAP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other assistance programs.
There is bipartisan support for the extension of TPS for Haitian refugees, including from Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Republican Congresswoman Mia Love. During a September 2016 campaign stop in Little Haiti, then candidate Trump said to citizens and refugees there: “Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion.”
I urge the president to keep his promise to the Haitian community and extend TPS. It is not only a responsibility to the Haitian people, our neighbors, but in keeping with the values we uphold as Americans.
Seth Moulton represents the sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives.