SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Mia Love promised a "full-court press" on President Donald Trump to not expel nearly 60,000 Haitians who have lived in the U.S. under provisional legal residency for more than seven years.
Love, R-Utah, called the Trump administration's announcement that it will not renew the Temporary Protected Status that has allowed Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake to live in this country a "bad decision." Haitian nationals would either have to leave or apply for a different legal immigration category by July 22, 2019.
"I'm going to do everything I can to work with the administration, but this is a place where we disagree, really disagree," Love said Tuesday on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show," adding she doesn't know what's behind the move other than someone apparently has Trump's ear.
Love's parents emigrated from Haiti in 1973 during a time of political repression, leaving their two older children behind with family. Love was born in Brooklyn, New York, two years later.
The decision follows then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s announcement in May 2017 that Haiti had made considerable progress, and that the country’s Temporary Protected Status likely would not be extended past six months, according acting Secretary Elaine Duke.
Duke said in a statement that she met recently in Washington with Haiti’s foreign minister and the Haitian ambassador to the United States, and consulted other U.S. government agencies.
"Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent. Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens. Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated," she said.
Of Kelly's visit, Love said, "I don't know what he was looking at."
Only 38 percent of the population of Haiti has water and electricity, she said. Also, more than 30,000 children live in orphanages, 80 percent of whom have at least one parent living in the country. Parents are so poor that they give their children up for what they believe is better access to food and education, but many of those children are sold into sex trafficking, she said.
"After an earthquake, after a hurricane, you've got more and more people that don't have homes to go to," Love said.
The Haitians living in the U.S. are not burdens because they work, contribute to the economy and don't receive any federal benefits, she said.
"To me, this is about who we are, especially here in the state of Utah. America is great because we are good people," Love said.
Republicans and Democrats have already reached out to push back on the Trump administration's decision, she said.
Love said she believes her congressional GOP colleagues from Utah will follow her lead.
"There is going to be a full-court press on the president on this issue because this is a bad decision," she said.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in statement that Trump's "cruelty knows no bounds."
"Protecting these hardworking people is the right thing to do for our economy and our country," Perez said. "With this decision, Trump is tearing families apart and turning his back on the values that have made our country great."
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund called on Congress to intervene.
Thomas A. Saenz, the organization's president and general counsel, said the decision wasn't surprising for a president "who has no regard for factually accurate information whatsoever and who is more concerned about boosting his ego through bullying coercion."