Breaking News: Kerry, Kirk call on Obama to grant TPS to Haitians

Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Paul Kirk are calling on President Barack Obama to lift a ban on granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to all Haitian nationals now living in the U.S. , Kerry and Kirk joined 13 other senators in issuing a letter to the president this afternoon.

The letter follows an announcement made by the Office of Homeland Security earlier in the day that said the U.S. would halt "returns" of illegal Haitian immigrants to Haiti "for the time being." That brief statement made no mention of revising the TPS policy.

Senator Kerry stated: "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.
Senator Kerry serves as the 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 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.


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)