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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians Living in U.S. in Wake of Devastating Earthquake

In the wake of Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Haiti, Senators John Kerry and Paul Kirk, together with 13 of their colleagues, today sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian nationals currently living in the U.S.

TPS is often granted to nationals of a country who are temporarily unable to safely return to their homeland because of armed conflict or a natural disaster. Deporting Haitians at this time would inhibit the Haitian government's ability to recover from the earthquake and worsen an already dire humanitarian situation.

"The people of Haiti are in a desperate situation after deadly hurricanes just 18 months ago and now a massive earthquake. Our assistance must be generous and sustained and we should also protect the Haitian nationals peacefully living and working in the United States. They should not be forced to return to a ravaged homeland where their basic human needs cannot be met. Along with my senate colleagues, I am pushing for Temporary Protected Status just like we have for others facing similar crises - it is the only fair thing to do," said Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I'm deeply saddened by the devastation that has occurred in Haiti. Like many of my colleagues, I know that now is not the time to send Haitians back to their country. Their country has been devastated, and I believe that the President should grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians who are currently in the United States. Haiti meets the criteria for this status, and this is the first of many ways we can help the Haitian people in the days and months ahead," said Senator Paul Kirk.

The text of the letter is as follows:

January 13, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian nationals currently residing within our borders. The earthquake that occurred yesterday, January 12, 2010, has devastated the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and the chaos that has ensued puts all the citizenry of that country at risk. Now is certainly not the time to deport Haitians into an overly burdened country.

Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was already facing a humanitarian crisis due to the four major hurricanes that ravaged Haiti in 2008 and was exacerbated by the country's extreme poverty. The earthquake yesterday has brought the operations of the country to a complete standstill. Many reports from Haiti describe the damage as "near total destruction" of all buildings, including hospitals, the Presidential palace, homes and many Embassies. The phone and electrical system is inoperable and emergency services are nearly non-existent. TPS is needed because there is no way to safely return Haitian citizens to their country. The United States granted TPS to Honduras and Nicaragua in 1999, following Hurricane Mitch, and to El Salvador in 2001, following several earthquakes. As the program is designed, TPS would only be available to Haitians already living in the United States.

Haiti clearly meets the criteria for TPS designation and extending it would be one small way to help address this catastrophe, as well as alleviate additional burdens on American assistance workers. We respectfully request that you grant TPS to Haitian nationals as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

John Kerry (D-MA)
Paul Kirk (D-MA)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Frank Lautenberg(D-NJ)
Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Robert Casey (D-PA)
Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)


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