September 12, 2019

Van Hollen Joins Democratic Senators in Introducing Temporary Protected Status for The Bahamas

Following reports that the Trump Administration will refuse to grant temporary protections to Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), joined Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in introducing the Bahamas Temporary Protected Status of 2019. The legislation designates The Bahamas for Temporary Protected Status for 18 months and provides humanitarian protection for eligible Bahamian citizens who are unable to return to their country due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian on September 1, 2019. 


More than a week after the catastrophic hurricane made landfall in The Bahamas, there have been at least 50 reported deaths, an estimated 2,500 people are missing, and more than 60,000 are without food and shelter.  Large swaths of the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama have been destroyed and are nearly uninhabitable.


"It will take years for the Bahamas to recover from the terrible destruction left by Hurricane Dorian. Temporary Protected Status allows its citizens to find refuge in the United States from exactly this kind of disaster, and it is the right thing to do as the people of the Bahamas rebuild their lives," said Senator Chris Van Hollen.


“The Trump Administration’s inability to provide TPS to Bahamians is as predictable as it is unfortunate. Given the President’s unwillingness to act, Senate Democrats are introducing legislation that would provide Bahamian nationals in the United States with urgently needed humanitarian protection.  As the devastation from Hurricane Dorian has left tens of thousands of people without shelter and food, this legislation is what a responsible and humane U.S. response requires,” said Senator Menendez. “I hope my Republican colleagues join us in this effort.”


“The Trump administration’s decision not to grant Temporary Protected Status to the people of the Bahamas shows an utter lack of compassion for a nation ravaged by Hurricane Dorian,” said Senate Minority Leader Schumer. “Hurricane Dorian is a humanitarian crisis and the United States must do more for the suffering people of the Bahamas as they rebuild and recover from the storm. I commend this legislation and urge the administration to reverse course and grant vulnerable Bahamians the support  and resources they need.”


“Everyone has seen the heartbreaking photos and videos from the Bahamas – homes turned into rubble; no access to food or clean water; families that have lost everything.  This is precisely the kind of situation where previous Administrations have granted Temporary Protected Status,” said Senator Durbin.  “The Trump Administration’s decision to deny TPS to the Bahamas is heartless, but not surprising.  America is better than this, and Congress has a responsibility to step up to provide this humanitarian protection to the Bahamian people in their time of greatest need.” 


“Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas and it caused catastrophic damage,” said Senator Booker. “Tens of thousands are still without homes, electricity or clean water, and areas of the country are completely uninhabitable. Bahamian nationals are in desperate need of our assistance and the United States must offer refuge and support to those who need it the most. That is who we are as Americans. This legislation provides Temporary Protected Status for the people of the Bahamans, which would allow them to work and live in the United States until it is safe enough for them to return to the country they love.”


“Refusing Bahamians TPS after Hurricane Dorian denies them a lifeline in their greatest moment of need,” said Senator Markey. “This heartless decision not only targets yet another immigrant community, but also dismisses a larger and ever-growing global problem: climate displacement. To deny TPS to Bahamians now is to set a dangerous precedent for how America helps those in need and recognizes the strategic challenges surrounding the climate crisis.”


“The devastation Hurricane Dorian wrought on the Bahamas and the extreme hardship its people are fleeing is exactly what the TPS program was designed to address,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The people of the Bahamas have already suffered through a once-in-a-generation storm – they shouldn’t also be forced to endure bureaucratic cruelty denying them a safe place to recover.”


“As the people of the Bahamas mourn the lives lost and begin the long, difficult process of recovering from this disastrous storm, the United States must continue its tradition of providing humanitarian support to nations in need by granting TPS to the Bahamas,” said Senator Bennet. “Without TPS, Bahamians in the U.S. are at risk of being forced to return to a country that is suffering a widespread humanitarian tragedy. In the wake of a catastrophe of this magnitude, we need to step forward and do all we can to help the Bahamas and its people get back on their feet.”


“The Bahamas were absolutely devastated by Hurricane Dorian. As people try to rebuild, their lives remain in danger because they don’t have access to clean drinking water or a safe place to sleep,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Congress should lead where President Trump won’t and pass the Bahama TPS Act. This would extend temporary protected status to refugees from the Bahamas who are seeking a safe haven after fleeing the islands in the wake of this natural disaster. Instead of demonizing them, we need to grant them the legal and humanitarian protection they need to survive.”


“Hurricane Dorian devastated the Grand Bahama and Abaco islands and swept away homes and livelihoods, but the Trump Administration made the heartless decision not to help those impacted,” said Senator Warren. “The U.S. has a moral obligation to grant Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians struggling to survive after this disaster.”


“Our arms should always be open to receive individuals fleeing disaster, and that includes our neighbors in the Bahamas who are recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian,” said Senator Harris. “Granting Bahamians temporary protected status will fulfill our nation’s moral responsibility to protect those whose lives have been upended by tragedy. It’s time for Congress to act.”


“Congress must pass this bill and act to show compassion to the survivors of Hurricane Dorian from the Bahamas whose homes and lives have been devastated,” said Senator Hirono. “Donald Trump’s heartless and un-American decision to deny Temporary Protected Status to these survivors who want to live and work in the U.S. while their home is rebuilt is just one more example of his crusade to stop people of color and people in need from entering the U.S.”


“There is no conceivable rationale – legal or moral – to justify President Trump’s refusal to extend Temporary Protected Status to the Bahamas,” said Senator Leahy. “Failing to do so abdicates our fundamental responsibility to help care for our neighbors in need.  I am proud to cosponsor this bill that would provide Bahamians a safe harbor as their country recovers from Dorian’s devastation.”


Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to safely return to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions.