By J K K Peah
Philadelphia-The organization fostering US-Liberia relations, the Liberia-America Friendship Organization spent the entire Monday working phones and communicating United States lawmakers appealing to them to prevail on the U S government including President Trump, State Department and Homeland Secretary to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the over two thousand Liberians who TPS status expired last Saturday.
The President of LIAFO, Mr. J K K Peah who leads the lobbying effort, pleaded with the U S lawmakers to extend TPS, emphasizing that though Ebola declared eradicated in Liberia but the health condition which precipitated the huge fatalities remains and in recent weeks, there is Meningitis outbreak in the east of the country affecting about 30 persons, killing 13 with two of the fatalities dying in capital, Monrovia, warranting the need to extend Temporary Protected Status for Liberians who TPS expired last Saturday.
The LIAFO President impressed on the U S lawmakers that in view of these conditions, extending TPS for Liberians will renew the faith of Liberians that United States is a friend they can rely on in times of trouble and give true purpose of the essence of the organization work of fostering US-Liberia relations and historical friendly ties which dates back in 1816 when the U S Congress contributed USD$100,000.00 to the effort of repatriating free people of color to Africa, an effort which ultimately culminated into the formation of the modern state of Liberia and the longest diplomatic relations which began in 1863 on the continent of Africa.
Among the U S lawmakers lobbied includes, Senator Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, home to the largest Liberian community in the United States and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Corker of the state of Tennessee.
Liberia is among several countries and one of the three Ebola-affected countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) giving legal status to stay and work in the United States in 2014 as the result of the Ebola pandemic in those countries but the U S government has since determined that those countries are declared Ebola free and therefore citizens from these countries no longer qualified for the TPS status.
The expiration of the TPS status for Liberians, Guineans and Sierra Leoneans mean they are subject to removal from the United States and not eligible to work but it is unclear and yet to see whether the U S government will enforce the removal of Liberian citizens and the two other Ebola affected countries from the country.
Liberia and the other Ebola countries are not the only countries granted TPS but other countries on a case by case basis, including El Salvadore, Honduras and Haiti, just to name a few.
Senator Ben Cardin of the state of Maryland on May 19, 2017, wrote the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr Kelly prevailing on these institutions to extend TPS for the 58,000 Haitians who were on TPS and also expired, arguing that the earthquake which struck Haiti which necessitated the granting of TPS to Haitians in the United States left untold challenges in the country and extending Haitians TPS is imperative.
The effort of the Liberia-America Friendship Organization lobbying US lawmakers would find hope in Senator’s Cardin’s letter advocating TPS extension for Haitians.
Below is Senator Ben Cardin’s letter requesting extension of TPS for Haitians:
Friday, May 19, 2017
Dear Secretaries Tillerson and Kelly:
I am writing to request that the Administration grant an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals, which expires on July 22, 2017. I also write to request a description of U.S. policy given Haiti’s recent political developments.
After Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, more than 58,000 Haitian nationals received TPS. While Haiti has made important progress towards reconstruction, efforts to rebuild the country and ensure the safe return of Haitian nationals have faced significant setbacks, including the continuing cholera epidemic and a catastrophic hurricane in late 2016. Given the complicated situation in Haiti, an extension of TPS is fully warranted.
As the Department of Homeland Security’s own internal memorandum outlines, an estimated 30 percent of Haiti’s population suffers from food insecurity and 40 percent lacks access to basic health services. These figures are compounded by United Nations data that, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew produced more than 175,000 internally displaced persons, in addition to the 55,000 individuals that remain displaced from the 2010 earthquake.
Given these troubling figures, I am concerned that, as of April 10, 2017, DHS’ internal memorandum notes that Secretary Tillerson had not responded to a request for a recommendation on continuing TPS for Haitians. The failure to renew TPS would have direct implications for U.S. foreign policy, as the potentially disorderly return of more than 50,000 people to Haiti could further complicate food insecurity and strain the country’s health system.
Additionally, after nearly two years of delayed elections and disruption of constitutional order in Haiti, it is imperative that the U.S. articulate a clear policy that prioritizes transparency, accountability, democracy, and good governance. As the Trump Administration evaluates its priorities, I request that you provide a detailed answer to the following questions:
- How will the Trump Administration work with the Government of Haiti to improve governance and implement financial transparency and accountability for government institutions in Haiti, as required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017?
- What steps will the Trump Administration take to work with the Government of Haiti strengthen the rule of law and combat corruption?
Due to Haiti’s ongoing challenges and the potential negative impact of ending TPS, I am concerned that the more than 75 percent cut to assistance for Haiti that Congress approved in the Fiscal Year 2017 Appropriations bill will limit U.S. ability to support the Haitian people.
In closing, I urge you to grant an 18-month extension of TPS for Haitian nationals, a program designed to stand by our values of fairness and compassion toward individuals who cannot otherwise return to a safe environment in their homeland. I also look forward to working with both of your Departments to advance priorities in the U.S.-Haiti bilateral relationship.