Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Welcomes Constituents to Albany for Haitian Unity Day Temporary Protective Status Extension Announced the Same Day

Brooklyn, NY – Yesterday, Assemblymembers Rodneyse Bichotte, Michaelle Solages, Kimberly Jean­Pierre, Clyde Vanel, and Ellen Jaffee, as well as Senators Parker, Carlucci, and Comrie, hosted over 100 of their dignitaries, colleagues, and constituents as part of Haitian Unity Day.

Haitian Unity Day was originated by Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee who represents Rockland County and has a significant Haitian population in her district. It was created so that Haitian Americans from throughout the State would have a day to share and celebrate their culture.

Participants enjoyed a tour of the Capitol, and lunch provided by Roy's Caribbean. They also had an opportunity to be acknowledged on the Assembly floor, and visited the Senate Chamber as well.

This year, the sponsors honored J. Philippe Abraham. Mr. Abraham is the first Haitian and the first higher education member to be elected to statewide office as First Vice President for New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). Among his many accomplishments he counts being a product of public schools, teaching at the middle, high school, and college levels, and being a voice for all that he represents in his many capacities including his roles as Vice President, chair, and co­chairs of various committees, and chief negotiator for contracts for the United University Professional (UUP), and as a delegate for the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and for NYSUT.

Among the dignitaries that attended was Dieudonne Etienne Luma, the only female senator in Haiti's parliament. She delivered a powerful message. In addition, Dr. Jean Eddy St. Paul, Founding Director of the Haitian Studies Institute (HSI) brought a welcoming message to those in attendance followed by musical performances by Monique Jean Pierre, Tatiana Myriam Nicoleau, and Ester Duclair.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

"The nearly 60,000 Haitians who are here with Temporary Protective Status received some good news and bad news on Monday," said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, a daughter of Haitian immigrants. "The good news is that their status has been extended, the bad news however is that TPS is usually extended for 18 months. Also it is reportedly the last time that it will be extended and it has been suggested that these TPS holders begin to prepare their travel documents for return to Haiti. The premise for this is that conditions have improved in Haiti, however that is patently false."

Indeed, what we saw last October with Hurricane Matthew, was the worst hurricane to hit Haiti in 52 years. Haiti is also experiencing a cholera epidemic which has killed nearly 10,000 people and made another 800,000 very sick. Combined these two events have also resulted in extreme food insecurity on the island.

Additionally, the administration would have us believe that most of the camps that were created for those displaced during the hurricane have been disbanded. That is true, however not because people have been provided with adequate housing, but because they were forcibly closed due to large scale evictions by landowners. Unfortunately, these evictions have mostly gone unchallenged.

It has even gotten to the point that now several of the larger camps have been reclassified as "permanent housing," simply because the residents had attached so much salvaged building material to their make shift housing.

Last month, it was leaked that the administration was trying to characterize Haitians as criminals and people who cheated our welfare system, however TPS recipients are ineligible for both welfare, and TPS.

"The extension for Haiti's TPS designation was needed but the length of 6 months is not enough. It definitely begs the question, "why would the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) only extend the designation for 6 months and not for 18 months which has been the normal practice?," said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte.

As was noted by Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, "Haiti can't safely assimilate 50,000 deportees nor, crucially, replace their remittances to hundreds of thousands of families back home. [Some] 50,000 still live in tents seven years after the earthquake."

As friends and allies of Haiti and of Haitians, we must continue to move forward and prepare over the next six months and be extremely careful and sensitive to all these pieces as we seek to do what is best.