Baker, Mass Senate urge TPS extension for Haitians, other foreign nationals

Gov. Charlie Baker and state lawmakers are calling on the Trump administration to continue temporary immigration protections for people who fled their home countries during periods of instability.

The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to continue the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Haitian and Honduran nationals living in the United States.

"The commonwealth has a long and proud history of being a state that supports, values and respects its immigrants and refugees escaping war and natural disasters," said the resolution, offered by Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.

The legislative resolution came a day after Baker asked the federal government "explore all reasonable alternatives" and find a solution that would allow TPS recipients from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras to remain here lawfully.

Baker on Tuesday wrote to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, urging her to "recognize the unsuitability of ordering tens of thousands of Haitians, Salvadorans and Hondurans now in the United States to return to homelands that are in crisis and that will be at risk of being further destabilized by a sudden influx of TPS nationals."

The TPS program provides immigration protections for a set period of time to people who must flee their home country because of war, natural disaster and other extraordinary circumstances.

Approximately 5,000 Haitians, 6,000 Salvadorans and 1,000 Hondurans live and work in Massachusetts, according to Baker, who said they are "extremely hard-working people who make valuable contributions" to the state.

Baker said many TPS recipients have children born in the United States, and that the country's immigration policy "should protect the integrity of these families."

"It is not consistent with the traditions and values of the United States to order the return of large numbers of foreign nationals who have been following our laws and contributing to our economy and culture to countries that are dangerous, politically unstable, and incapable of providing basic services and protections for their citizens," Baker wrote.

"We consider this a very good thing," Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition spokeswoman Marion Davis wrote in an email in reference to the governor's letter.

In May, as the Trump administration was deciding whether to extend TPS for Haitians, ralliers and faith leaders from the Bay State Haitian community gathered at the State House and called for Baker to step in. Baker said through a spokesman at the time that he fully supported an extension.

The homeland security department ultimately extended TPS for Haitians until January 2018 and said further extensions may not be granted.