WASHINGTON, DC November 14, 2017 (CMC) – Three members of the US Congress are preparing legislation that will allow all Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to apply for permanent residency, even as the Trump administration weighs whether to end the program.
The bill, dubbed the ASPIRE Act, would let all Haitians, covered by TPS before January 1, 2017, to apply for permanent residency by proving, before a judge, that they would face extreme hardship if forced to return home.
“The Temporary Protected Status program was created, with bipartisan support, to protect human life,” said New York Democratic Congresswoman, Yvette Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who plans to introduce the legislation with Miami Republican Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Washington Democratic Congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal.
“It advances American interests and values, and we must work in a bipartisan manner to do the right thing and protect hardworking immigrants from being sent back to countries, where their physical well-being could be cast into doubt,” added Clarke, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.
Under the proposed bill, instead of waiting for renewal or revocation of their status every 18 months, current TPS recipients would be able to stay in the US for a renewable six-year period, although they would not be eligible for permanent residency if they cannot prove extreme hardship.
Clarke’s proposal is more expansive than a bill sponsored by Miami Republican Congressman, Carlos Curbelo, that would provide a path to permanent residency for TPS recipients from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, who arrived in the US before January 13, 2011.
According to the Miami Herald, Ros-Lehtinen and Miami Republican Congressman, Mario Diaz-Balart, have signed on to Curbelo’s bill.
The ASPIRE Act would also correct what Clarke’s office calls an “error” in existing law that requires TPS recipients, who arrived in the US illegally, to leave the US and re-enter to adjust their status, the Herald said.
Instead, it said, a TPS designation would be enough of a reason to apply for permanent residency without having to leave the country.
Last week, the Trump administration announced that TPS for about 2,000 Nicaraguans will end in January 2019, while about 60,000 Hondurans will get a six-month TPS extension until July 2018, instead of the typical 18 months.
The US Department of Homeland Security is yet to announce a decision for Haiti and El Salvador. A decision on Haiti must be made by November 23.
Clarke said her bill could attract Republican support because it does not automatically give TPS recipients a path to permanent residency. A judge must find that a TPS recipient would face extreme hardship if they return home.
“We’re not handing out green cards here,” said Clarke spokeswoman, Christine Bennett.
The Herald reports that with the bulk of Haiti’s 50,000 TPS recipients residing in Florida, members of Congress who represent South Florida support extending TPS.
However, the report notes that the Trump administration is hesitant to embrace any immigration policies that expand immigrant protections, noting that TPS was always meant to be a temporary solution for people affected by natural disasters or armed conflict.
While TPS is a major issue in Florida, Ros-Lehtinen questioned how much the Republic-controlled Congress cares about the program, which affects over 300,000 people.
“There’s just no interest for immigration reform generally, and I don’t think there’s much appetite to help these two particular groups of people. It hurts to say it, but it’s the political reality,” she said.