Activists marched the streets of Miami Saturday urging the Department of Homeland Security to renew Temporary Protected Status for Haitians.
Organizations from across South Florida rallied alongside TPS recipients outside of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, located at 8801 NW 7th Ave., calling for an extension of TPS-- which is set to expire July 22.
"I have friends and I have family who are now facing deportation and this is why I'm here today," said Haitian demonstrator Eltard Alexis.
Earlier this week, Secretary John Kelly asked Department of Homeland Security staff for the criminal history of thousands of Haitians living in the United States on protected immigration status.
Federal law regarding TPS does not specify a recipient's behavior as criteria for extending the program. Those who receive the status immigration are heavily screened before they are granted the protected status, according to immigration experts.
Congress created TPS back in 1990 for people whose countries are too devastated by political or natural disasters to safely return. The Obama administration granted temporary protective status to Haiti in 2010 after a massive earthquake devastated the island-nation, killing an estimated 220,000 and displacing 1.5 million.
"The situation on the ground in Haiti is not the type of situation you want to send people back to," said Pedro Gassant with the Haitian Lawyers Association. "You have about 58,000 Haitians who have temporary protective status on the basis of the earthquake that occurred in 2010 and last year in the fall you had a significant hurricane that occurred that has displaced entire villages."
Gassant says Haitian immigrants see the United States as a country of hope, change, and economic stability. now their calling on President Donald Trump to extend TPS.
Demonstrators say they can not ignore the TPS issue given the large Haitian community in South Florida.
"We are l'union fait la force," Gassant said. "We believe in unity. Unity is strength and that's on our flag because we believe with unity we can accomplish anything and that's why we're here today."