MIAMI GARDENS — The city of Miami Gardens has passed a resolution seeking to encourage the Bush administration to provide Temporary Protected Status to Haitian immigrants in the United States.

The Miami Gardens City Council unanimously accepted the measure proposed by Councilman Andre Williams during its Dec. 10 meeting.

“It defies logic that the U.S. government has not provided TPS to Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. in the same way that they have provided that status to other foreigners,” Williams said.

TPS may be granted when any of the following conditions are met: There is ongoing armed conflict posing a serious threat to personal safety; it is requested by a foreign state that temporarily cannot handle the return of nationals due to environmental disaster; or when extraordinary and temporary conditions in a foreign state exist which prevent aliens from returning.

U.S. Congressmen Kendrick Meek and Alcee Hastings pointed out in a February 2008 letter to President Bush “that Haiti meets all of the requirements for TPS and is just as deserving as the other currently protected nations, if not more so.”

Williams received the help of Andre Pierre, a local Haitian-American immigration attorney, in crafting the Miami Gardens legislation.  In addition to practicing immigration law, Pierre also teaches the subject at Barry University.

The Miami Gardens’ legislation joins a list of seemingly ignored pleas from Haitian-American activists and American politicians who have urged the Bush administration to afford the devastated country the same status that was afforded immigrants from Nicaragua and Honduras after Hurricane Mitch in 1998; and El Salvador immigrants after it suffered the effects of two earthquakes within one month in 2001.

While the legislation may be viewed as largely symbolic, Pierre is hopeful that the “lame duck” President Bush will consider granting TPS to Haitians before he leaves office in a few weeks, perhaps in a last-ditch effort to improve his tattered image.

In a May 2008 editorial for the South Florida Times, local Haitian activist Marleine Bastien drew attention to the United States’ ironic warning against travel to Haiti prior to this year’s devastating hurricane season.

Bastien implored the Bush administration to grant TPS, as doing so “would allow about 20,000 Haitian immigrants to continue sending support money to about ten times that many people in Haiti.”

It is estimated that Haitians living in the U.S. send approximately $1.8 billion back to Haiti annually.

Williams said the issue is of particular importance to him because of the number of Haitians residing in the city of Miami Gardens.

“We have about 3,400 registered Haitian-American voters and the actual number of Haitian American residents is closer to 5,000 or so,” he said.

In a rare acknowledgment of the danger facing Haitians repatriated to their country, the Department of
Homeland Security temporarily halted deportations to Haiti following the back-to-back storms this summer.

“The U.S. did cease deportations to Haiti because of the storms that have ravaged the country this past summer, but in the last few weeks they have begun those deportations again,” Williams said.

Pierre said he has several clients who may face deportation, none of whom would agree to be interviewed for this story.

“I have one client that was taken into custody. I have not been able to get in contact with him. I’m assuming he’s probably back in Haiti,” he said.