Pastors, Advocates Urge Legislation To Support Haitian TPS Holders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The local Haitian community and immigrant advocates have been urging Senator Bob Corker and members of Congress to push for a bill helping citizens under a protected status.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, local pastors, and Haitian community members held a meeting with Kyle Johnson, Corker's Nashville-area field director. 

"We wanted to make sure that Senator Corker understood the consequences of terminating the Temporary Protected Status [TPS] and the impact on the local community. We urge a support for a legislation to grant TPS holders a more permanent solution like a pathway to citizenship," TIRRC Policy Director Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus told NewsChannel 5.

Last week, the Trump administration announced a decision to end TPS designation for Haiti. 

There is a delayed effective date of 18 months to allow for an orderly transition before it terminates by July 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The decision would impact nearly 60,000 Haitians who were accepted to live in the country, primarily of whom were affected by the 2010 earthquake that killed 300,000 people. 

In a press release, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke "determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated."

However, many groups have criticized the decision saying it's the latest effort to send immigrants down a "deportation pipeline" and would ultimately destroy families and create an economic crisis.

"Those people have already settled here. They have communities. They have jobs. They have families. They are teachers and businessmen," said Nashville First Church of the Nazarene Haitian Pastor Maromy Samuel, who's over the Haitian congregation, in an interview with NewsChannel 5 last week

There's an estimated 320,000 people in the country who hold TPS from ten designated countries, according to TIRRC statistics.

Other statistics showed 3,400 people in Tennessee are TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. 

In the state, 3,200 US-born children have parents under TPS designation. 

Pastor Samuel was a part of the meeting with Johnson and said it went surprisingly well. He stated that it was meaningful that Corker's office was willing to listen and learn about the impact it has on Haitian communities. 

"I think there is hope as people come to understand the importance of the US government being supportive and having open arms and trying to be fair and welcoming to the Haitian people. That's what we saw today as a possibility. We saw that when people are informed, they can be ears to what is going on and the current situation in the country," said Samuel. "Hopefully we'll have more people address the issue in the government. We hope the government would reconsider that and realize how it will be harmful to both sides."

Sherman-Nikolaus said TIRRC has planned to hold a town hall meeting in January to help educate and organize local Haitians to share their story. 

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