WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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26 Sep 2019 | News

Request for Temporary Protected Status on Behalf of Bahamian Nationals

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, 115 religious, civil society, national and international organizations ask that Bahamians be immediately designated for the Temporary Protect Status (TPS) humanitarian program, following the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian on September 1.

The text of the letter is below:


Re: Request for Temporary Protected Status on Behalf of Bahamian Nationals

The undersigned organizations write to urge the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to immediately designate the Commonwealth of the Bahamas (Bahamas) for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under § 244(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as it is unsafe to return Bahamian nationals due to massive devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane and one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history, first made landfall on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas on September 1, 2019. It slowly moved across the islands, languishing over Grand Bahama for days. With sustained winds of 185 mph, Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas causing death and injury, widespread destruction, mass displacement of residents, and serious disruption of living conditions across the Bahamas; it affected over 76,000 people. A grant of TPS would provide 2 employment authorization and protection from deportation for approximately 14,000 Bahamian noncitizens in the United States.

Countries may be designated for TPS “due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.” These circumstances include “ongoing 4 armed conflict (such as civil war), an environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic, [or] other extraordinary and temporary condition[s].” With over 70,000 Bahamians displaced, hundreds missing, a death toll of at least 50 people and growing, and entire neighborhoods destroyed, DHS must grant TPS for the Bahamas under either of the latter two 1 Hurricane Dorian survivor films storm’s terrifying wrath in Bahamas as it pounds against his home, prongs of the TPS statute. Support for TPS for the Bahamas is widespread with members of 6 Congress already introducing H.R. __, the TPS for Victims of Hurricane Dorian Act, demonstrating the broad constituency of support for a TPS designation.

The Bahamian government and international aid organizations acknowledged conditions are dismal. Across the Bahamas, search-and-rescue crews have only been able to search one-tenth of previously inhabited areas, and the Bahamian government has formally evacuated 3,500 people to Nassau. Half of the Great Abaco Island’s population—around 20,000 residents—fled to Nassau, and 4,000 have fled to closest large country, the United States, by air and sea. Initial 8 figures from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency estimate 18,000 children in the Abaco and Grand Bahama areas are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Less than a week after Dorian hit, over 100 Bahamian evacuees were forced off a ship and barred from entering the United States after a last minute announcement by the ferry boat operator. It remains unclear what the next steps are for displaced Bahamians fleeing Hurricane Dorian’s wreckage. If granted TPS, Bahamian nationals would have the opportunity to live in safe conditions, secure employment, support their families, and be free of the fear of being prematurely returned to their devastated home.

There is substantial precedent for providing survivors of environmental disasters with TPS. After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, and 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano granted both Haitian and Nepali nationals TPS. Given conditions in the Bahamas, communities are already facing famine, untreated injuries, and disease; and we, members of the international community, must support our Bahamian neighbors to resettle as the islands rebuild.

Given the widespread devastating conditions in the Bahamas, precedent and congressional intent for DHS to grant TPS to nationals of countries experiencing environmental disaster, and the Bahamas’ status as a regional neighbors, we respectfully request that you immediately designate the Bahamas for TPS.

We would welcome the opportunity to engage with DHS about this request. Please do not hesitate to contact Jill Marie Bussey, Advocacy Director at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., at [email protected] should you have any questions or require further information.




International Organizations:

Caribbean Studies Association

New Haven/León Sister City Project

Refuge For Families


National Organizations:

Adrian Dominican Sisters

African Communities Together

Alianza Americas

America’s Voice

American Friends Service Committee

Boston University International Human Rights Clinic

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Church World Service

Coalition on Human Needs

Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces


Daily Kos

Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Families Belong Together

Franciscan Action Network

Freedom to Thrive

Immigrant Defense Project

Institute for Policy Studies

Interfaith Worker Justice

International Institute of New England


Law Office of Sabrina Damast, Inc.

League of Conservation Voters

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

National Immigration Forum

National Immigration Law Center

National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

National TPS Alliance

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America

Our Revolution

Path With Heart

Priests of the Sacred Heart, US Province

Project South

Provincial Council Clerics of St. Viator

Quinnipiac University School of Law Civil Justice Clinic

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team

Sisters of St. Francis Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Committee

Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities

Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

The Episcopal Church

U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee


Ware Immigration

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

We Are All America

Win Without War

Working Families United


Regional, State, and Local Organizations:

AFSC Colorado

Arkansas United

Asylee Women Enterprise

Brooklyn Defender Services

Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC, Inc.

Capuchin Franciscans, Province of St. Joseph Casa Reina

Catholic Charities of SW Kansas

Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami

Catholic Migration Services

Central American Resource Center

Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible

Corvallis Palestine Solidarity

DC-MD Justice For Our Neighbors

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin

Faith Communities Organizing for Sanctuary

Family Action Network Movement (FANM)

Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA

Friends of Broward Detainees

Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition

Green Mountain Solidarity With Palestine

Haitian Bridge Alliance

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven

Jewish Voice for Peace, Atlanta Chapter

Justice for Our Neighbors-MI

Kentucky Equal Justice Center

Law Office of Sabrina Damast, Inc.

Lorain Ohio Immigrants rights assoc.

Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America

Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project

Mississippi Center for Justice

Nationalities Service Center

Network Against Racism and Islamophobia-Portland, OR

New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta

New York Immigration Coalition

New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

NYU Immigrant Defense Initiative

Ohio Immigrant Alliance


Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Poder Latinx

Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada


Sisters of Saint Francis JPIC Commissioners

Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York

Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston

Southerners On New Ground

St. Andrew Lutheran Church

St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berk

The Door

The Legal Aid Society (New York)

United Methodists’ Holy Land Task Force

University of Maryland Carey Immigration Clinic

Wayne Action for Racial Equality