A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, are urging President Donald Trump to allow people in the United States but from Caribbean countries hit by Hurricane Irma to stay here for a temporary period.
Ros-Lehtinen, along with New York Democrat Eliot Engel and California Democrat Barbara Lee are circulating a letter to colleagues in Congress over the weekend asking them to support extending what’s known as Temporary Protected States to affected countries, including the Dominican Republic and Antigua and Barbuda.
On Monday, they will send the letter to Trump.
“While Congress and the Administration work to provide relief for those affected by devastation from Irma in our own country, we must also support our friends in the Caribbean,” the draft letter, obtained by Miami Herald, said. “As the storm moves away from the first-impacted islands, the casualty toll is slowly rising as deaths have been reported in Barbuda and Saint Martin. The economies of the affected areas have been completely destroyed and will take years to rebuild.”
One of the 10 countries currently on the TPS list, Haiti, lies within Irma's path. TPS was extended to Haiti in 2011 after a massive 2010 earthquake and Florida lawmakers have asked the Trump administration to extend Haiti’s TPS status, which is set to expire in January 2018.
Other countries impacted by Irma include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, along with overseas territories of the UK, France and the Netherlands. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were also impacted by Irma, though residents there are U.S. citizens and not subject to TPS.
“I have signed onto Eliot's letter and I support extending TPS to the folks living in the US who are from nations impacted by Hurricane Irma,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “For them to go back to their areas that have been devastated by Irma would not be constructive because the infrastructure is not able to sustain the economy. Jobs would be impossible for them to get and if they are granted TPS here, they can earn a living and pay taxes to help our economy.”
Ros-Lehtinen and Engel serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee while Lee is part of a congressional subcommittee that deals with international diplomacy.
Update: 9/12/17: Engel's office announced in a press release that 75 members of Congress signed on to the letter.
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