Finally–#TPS for #Haiti…#adelante con la lucha! #immigration
by Francesca Guerrier & Kim Ives
Some 50 Haitians and their supporters held a spirited demonstration in front of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach on Monday, Oct. 26 to demand that President Obama immediately grant Temporary Protected Status or TPS to some 35,000 undocumented Haitians currently in the US.
Obama was at the hotel for a fundraiser for Democratic Florida congressmen Alcee Hastings and Kendrick Meek, who is running for senator.
The demonstration was organized by the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition, Institute of Justice and Democracy (IJDH), Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and Free Haiti Now, all groups which had been expecting Obama to reverse the Bush administration’s denial of TPS to Haitians last December.
“We are all frustrated that more than nine months after President Obama’s inauguration Haitians still don’t have TPS despite the incredibly broad editorial and political support for it, including from the three South Florida Republicans in the US House of Representatives,” said Steve Forester, an immigration lawyer and long-time TPS advocate who presently represents the IJDH in Florida. “And we are doubly surprised that we have not yet gotten a response to our request to at least give people the dignity of the right to work while the administration continues, month after month, to review the propriety of granting TPS, which to us and every objective observer is a no-brainer, based on the four hurricanes and storms that hit Haiti in a one-month period a year ago.”
TPS, which briefly can be granted by executive order to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who are temporarily unable to return to their nation because of a natural disaster, armed conflict, or other extraordinary circumstances. Since it was established in 1990, TPS has been granted to immigrants from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Burundi, Somalia, Montserrat, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Liberia.
Since January, many demonstrations demanding TPS for Haitians have been held in Florida and other states. Over 300 people from Florida and the Northeast traveled by bus to Washington, DC to demonstrate in front of the White House on Jun. 3, and many more turned out for a second demonstration there on Sep. 16.
On Sep. 18, Free Haiti Now, FLIC and Haitian Women in Miami (FANM) held a vigil at Virginia Key Beach on Key Biscayne to call for TPS and to pay respect to the many Haitian refugees who have died at sea. Performing at the protest were Miami artists DJ Khaled, Mecca aka Grimo, and Grindmode. Other celebrities also supported the action and the TPS call including M1 from Dead Prez, Black Dada, Ace Hood, NBA superstar Hudonis Haslem, and three artists from the group Poe Boy: Billy Blue, Brisco and Flo Rida.
“We need the administration to grant TPS or at least, while they are considering it, to grant work permits on a case by case basis to TPS-deserving non-criminal Haitians who desperately need work permits, drivers licenses and the ability to feed their families, pay electricity bills, and send remittances to Haiti which can support up to ten times that number, thereby increasing Haiti’s security and our own,” Forester said.
On Oct. 26, the demonstrators were restricted to a sidewalk across Collins Avenue from the Fontainebleau. The area was heavily guarded by U.S. Secret Service, Miami Beach police and private security guards. The police harassed demonstrators who sought to take pictures of the protest from the street.
Further down the sidewalk, a group of about 100 anti-immigrant “teabaggers” protested Obama’s presence in Miami with absurd signs like “Go back to Kenya” and “Go back to Indonesia” and “Obama = Comunism.” (sic)
Among those who came out to the TPS demonstration were a few Central American farmworkers from Homestead, about 25 Haitians from West Palm Beach, and FLIC staff members.
In March, former Haitian-American unionist Patrick Gaspard, now Obama’s Director for Political Affairs, traveled to Miami to soothe and reassure Haitian leaders that the administration would soon act on TPS. The reprieve he brokered has now expired.
“As far as we are concerned, regarding Haiti, the Obama administration is maintaining the same status quo as the Bush immigration policy,” Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition president Jean-Robert Lafortune told the Miami Herald.
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Yesterday FLIC members and pro-immigrant allies from across Miami-Dade county, with our partners at the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board (CRB) and City of Miami CRB, came together for a countywide immigration reform summit to “unite our diverse communities around agreed-upon priorities for legislative reform that will uphold our common commitment to equal treatment and due process for all immigrants,” in the words of CRB Chairman Harold Vieux. Issues discussed included enhancing safety and security, providing for legalization and a pathway to citizenship, protecting children, re-unifying families and protecting workers.
Speakers included Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of FAMN (and FLIC Board chair), Cheryl Little, Executive Director at Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Jonathan Fried, Executive Director of We Count!, as well as Felipe Matos of SWER and FLIC’s own Maria Rodriguez. Advocates like Police Chief John Timoney, himself an immigrant, spoke out against 287(g) agreements that deputize local police to act as immigration enforcement agents, taking precious resources away from fighting dangerous crime. There was incredible support in the room for immigration reform, and much unity around our priorities.
The overarching message was that we need immigration reform now–for our families and our communities. We cannot wait. “Under the current administration, comprehensive immigration reform is something that our president, the White House and Congress can deliver,'” said Jean-Robert Lafortune, chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition. “Immigrants can’t live on hope alone.”
To make sure that this message is heard throughout the state, and in Washington, FLIC and our allies are planning a variety of public events throughout the fall. Please stay tuned for more information, and add your voice to the resounding majority in Florida calling for real change–NOW!
Miami City Commission Urges President Obama To Grant Temporary Protected Status To Haitians In The United States13 Jun
Excellent news–hopefully more cities throughout Florida and the nation will pass similar resolutions!
MIAMI – City of Miami Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez, backed unanimously by the City of Miami Commission, passed a resolution Thursday, June 11, 2009, urging President Barrack Obama to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitians in the United States.
“We are urgently calling on President Obama to do the right thing,” Sanchez said.
TPS suspends the deportation of undocumented Haitians already in the U.S. and allows the granting of work permits that can last up to 18 months.
“As a proud member of Miami’s Haitian community, and an advocate for the humanitarian treatment of all people, I am pleased that Chairman Sanchez and the City Commission is poised to set an example for the rest of the country to follow,” said Francesca Menes of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. Menes added, “Haiti has been devastated–environmentally and economically–and Temporary Protected Status would help Haitians here and abroad.”
Haitian workers in the United States support relatives back home with remittances to Haiti from the United States estimated to be more than $1 billion.
“Hurricane season is upon us and the nation of Haiti has barely recovered from last season’s devastating storms. It is imperative that we grant temporary protected status to Haitians in the U.S., so their work here can help fuel the rebuilding back home,” Sanchez said.
Father Jean-Juste was beloved by many and is dearly missed. Please join us in remembering his many contributions to the struggle for social justice in Haiti.
From the article: “Father Gerald Jean Juste risked the guns of the US Marines, UN troops, Haitian coup d’etat police, the dangers of their bullets, arrests and censure to walk with, and suffer with the disenfranchised and vilified residents in the populous neighborhoods of Haiti. He would not let the people stand and suffer alone.”