Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Haiti a Case for Temporary Protected Status

Nature has not been good to the Caribbean island of Haiti. The summer and early fall storms and tropical hurricanes have left an estimated one million homeless; this includes 300,000 children who have been displaced and nearly 1,000 people who have died or are still missing. In a recent statement before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) observed, "...It is now more imperative than ever that the United States grant Haitian immigrants Temporary Protective Status (TPS). TPS is the least expensive, most immediate form of humanitarian assistance we can provide Haiti."

Towns have disappeared, family members search for their loved ones, and contact with those who have family members in other parts of the world – including the United States – has been difficult. The island’s most recent devastation comes at a time when Haiti continued abject poverty and a decimated social infrastructure, the ebb and flow of political unrest, and a feeble economic situation.

In the face of this reality, Haitian communities and their allies have moved forward with a call for granting Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to those who have fled the island to the U.S. and are undocumented immigrants or workers.

On October 9th a meeting took place at AFSC’s Miami office to discuss the Caribbean nation’s current conditions and future strategies. A grassroots coalition was formed to share information on how to protect and prevent raids; provide a voice to share Haiti’s current conditions; organize a plan of action; and respond to the concerns to protect the human and civil rights of the nation’s Haitian community.

Paul-Andre Mondesir, AFSC Haitian Community Advocate shares, “AFSC is part of a community coalition and meetings to map out a plan of action, and to help address the urgent needs of community members.” The renewal of TPS for nationals from several Central American and African nations torn apart by strife, war and natural disasters provides an added context for U.S. leaders to consider TPS as a humane response to Haiti’s most recent emergency. While there seems to be a temporary let-up in the detention and deportation of Haitians, there is significant concern that this will not last.

AFSC has had a long-term engagement with the people of Haiti, both in assistance with community empowerment, and development in Haitian communities, and in support of the Haitian Diaspora. This work is grounded in an institutional commitment to reconciliation and justice rooted in Quaker values and practices.

American Friends Immigrant Services (AFIS) Program in Miami will continue its work to support a humane response and to advocate for the designation of temporary protected status for Haitians presently in the United States.

For further information on how you can add your voice to the call for temporary protected status or to support the AFIS partnership with the Haitian community, contact Lucio Perez-Reynoso, director of the AFIS Miami office at or Paul-Andre Mondesir at or at 305-252-6441.

 As a first step: Contact your Congressional leader and urge support for the TPS status for Haitians, The Haitian Protection Act of 2007, H. R. 522. The bill will be reintroduced in the 111th Congress (Since the House has adjourned, this bill will need to be reintroduced in the next session which begins in January). The cosponsors of the bill are Representatives Hastings, Meek and Corrine Brown.

A Taxing Time for Chicago Cab Drivers

Cabdrivers Have Human Rights Too!

“Cabdrivers deserve a fair fare increase...”
Chicago Sun-Times Headline Commentary – 10/3/08

For months now Chicago's United Taxidrivers Community Council (UTCC) has worked to draw attention to the grim work and labor conditions of its members. AFSC’s Chicago office serves as a community ally of UTCC and provides technical assistance and support to this cab-driver led, grassroots organization. Chicago's increased cost of living, the national economic downturn and the daily and weekly expenses of driving a taxi in the city and its surrounding suburbs, have increased the financial hardship faced by the 10,000 taxi workforce.

This past April as fuel costs increased the City Council imposed a $1 gas surcharge. However, the gas surcharge was conditional, only provided temporary relief and was then passed on to passengers and customers. UTCC has noted that the gas surcharge bears no relation to a revision of current fare rates which would provide substantive economic relief. The gas surcharge was recently reduced and gradually eliminated altogether.

In early October the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way indicated its unwillingness to consider a fare increase for at least another year. UTCC has taken various steps to address this situation including sending a letter to the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way, urging for their support of a public hearing on the revision of the current fare rates.

Moreover, public opinion and increased media coverage point to support for a fare hike and solidarity with the city's taxidrivers. In a November 2008 letter to Mayor Richard M. Daley, Fayez Khozindar (UTCC board chair)wrote:

“...We have completed and we will be submitting over 1,300 signatures calling for a permanent 16% fare increase, and biennial review of the rates of fare thereafter. According to our statistics, cabdrivers are driving an average shift of 12 hours and 20 minutes, and earning a mere $5.77 an hour. Please consider that in the city of Chicago, birthplace of the 8-hour-day, many cabdrivers are working 14 hours a day.

We will do what it takes to catalyze the reforms that we need, but we wish to keep the city running smoothly. We are ready to strike, if our request for productive dialogue is not reciprocated -- but we hope that we will be offered a seat at the table, instead of being excluded from decision-making in matters that affect us, as in the past.”

UTCC also seeks a moratorium on the issuance of new city medallions, and an ongoing dialogue with the Department of Consumer Services and city officials to improve the industry’s labor conditions.

For further information on the AFSC and UTCC partnership contact Prateek Sampat at or at 312-427-2533.