WASHINGTON – Gov. Rick Scott has pressed the Trump administration to back off on timeline that could result in the deportation of thousands of Haitians, many living in Florida.
Scott raised the issue in a meeting Thursday with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. "Temporary protected status" for Haitians expires in July and they could be expelled in January.
"The secretary has not made a decision on TPS for Haiti," spokesman David Lapan told the Tampa Bay Times. "He and Gov. Scott did have a conversation about the program and the secretary listened to the Governor's points about his desire for DHS to extend TPS."
About 50,000 Haitians have been allowed to live in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake. The TPS program has been extended several times but now faces another deadline. The Trump administration has been examining the criminal backgrounds, but Lapan says that won't be used to make a final decision about TPS.
Late last month, Sen. Bill Nelson and 14 other Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging them to extend the protection.
"Haiti is ill-equipped to handle the return of the roughly 50,000 Haitian nationals currently receiving TPS," the senators wrote. "We welcomed the previous extension of TPS for Haitian nationals, and we believe the reports of widespread damage and destruction in Haiti make an extended TPS designation appropriate."
Trump courted the Haitian community during a visit to Miami in September. "Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion," Trump said.
Scott has successfully used his Trump connections before. Last month, he announced the state would get $1.5 billion to cover health care for the poor.