U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) called on the Trump administration to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the nearly 60,000 Haitians living in the U.S. until at least July 2019. Nelson with a group of Haitian American community leaders on Aug. 24 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center to discuss the issue and how it’s affecting the community.

In a letter he sent to Acting Secretary of Homeland of Security Elaine Duke, Nelson requested that TPS for the tens of thousands of Haitians living in the U.S. be extended for a full 18 months beyond the current expiration date of Jan. 22, 2018.

“Given Haiti’s continued recovery from the 2010 earthquake and last fall’s Category 4 hurricane, I strongly urge you to grant a full, 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status for the roughly 60,000 Haitian nationals living here in the U.S.,” Nelson wrote.

“Hurricane Matthew has significantly set back Haiti’s ongoing recovery efforts,” Nelson added. “As you consider this request to extend TPS beyond its current expiration date of January 22, I encourage you to visit Haiti to assess the conditions on the ground there for yourself. I also encourage you to meet with Haitian leaders in Florida to discuss the importance of extending protections for those already living here.”

It’s not the first time the Florida Democrat has weighed in on the issue. Nelson sent a similar letter to then-Sec. John Kelly in May calling for a full, 18 month extension.

Later that month, however, Kelly announced that DHS had granted only a six month extension – instead of the full 18 – meaning the nearly 60,000 Haitian nationals who have been living in the U.S. since 2011 may soon be forced to return to their homeland.

With Sec. Kelly now in the White House, Nelson is asking the agency’s new acting secretary to extend TPS beyond the current Jan. 22 deadline.

Nelson argues the U.S. should be focused on helping the island nation recover from two devastating natural disasters, instead of sending people home to a country that can’t support them.

“The new Government of Haiti is in the process of implementing an economic growth plan so Haiti can better serve its people at home and those living abroad,” said Nelson. “I know that [Acting Secretary Duke] shares hopes for a stable and prosperous Haiti.”

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