By Trenton Daniel
A year after a string of storms battered Haiti, South Florida Haitian leaders are stepping up efforts to press the Obama administration to activate a designation that would allow some 30,000 Haitians in the United States to seek employment.
“Our people need a work permit to continue contributing to this country and to provide for their families,” said the Rev. Jonas Georges, a pastor at All Nations Presbyterian Church in North Miami Beach. “It is a status that the president can say, with the stroke of a pen, `there it is.’ ”
Georges’ plea came Monday at a news conference in Little Haiti that marked the first of several events this week — from South Florida to Washington, D.C. — that seek to press government officials to grant Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Haitians. The designation would enable some 30,000 Haitians in the United States to apply for work permits and, advocates argue, wire sorely needed remittances back to Haiti .
On Wednesday, several busloads of Haiti advocates from Miami and other Florida cities plan to rally in front of the White House; that afternoon, they plan to meet with Department of Homeland Security officials. And on Friday, local hip hop stars will gather on Virginia Key to lend their support to the TPS cause. “Miami will fall,” without TPS for Haitians, Andre “McKlezie” Wallace, head of the Grind Mode group, said at the Monday afternoon news conference.
Celebrities have also come to the TPS cause in recent weeks, including Miami Heat forward-center Udonis Haslem.
But securing TPS for Haitians could be a tough fight.
The Obama administration is reviewing the possibility of issuing TPS to Haitians, though the president said this summer that an immigration overhaul would not happen until next year. Obama is also trying to turn around the troubled economy and implement healthcare reform.
Haiti advocates say TPS can’t wait.
“Yes, he faces a lot of challenges,” Georges said. “The president has been dragging his feet, so to speak, on the issue of granting TPS to Haitians.”
Former President Bill Clinton, the United Nations’ special envoy to Haiti, publicly brought up the TPS issue in August. He urged Haiti advocates to keep the pressure on, but to do so respectfully.