NY’s senators want Haitian nationals in U.S. spared after storm

By Patrick Donachie

New York’s two U.S. senators have asked Washington to halt deportation proceedings against non-criminals from Haiti in light of the havoc created by Hurricane Matthew to the island last week.

Rescue agencies are continuing to assess the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew with at least 1,000 feared dead and many more displaced by the force of the storm that swept across the Caribbean nation last week. The senators acted as agencies and elected officials in Queens reached out to the community to raise funds and donate supplies.

“It is simply imperative that we protect non-violent Haitian nations from deportation to a country in the midst of such turmoil,” Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said in a letter to the State Department and Homeland Security,

They requested what is called Temporary Protected Status to recently arrived Haitians living in the United States in the aftermath of the hurricane. The U.S. government granted TPS to Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed thousands and made it impossible to send the foreign nations back because of the widespread wreckage left behind.

A prominent Haitian-American nonprofit in Queens began collecting donations almost immediately after the storm hit Oct. 4.

“The Haitian-Americans United for Progress organization, located in Hollis, continues to accept donations,” the group said. “People can make contributions at haupinc.org that will aid in the rebuilding after Hurricane Matthew.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) is collecting a variety of items to support Haitian survivors of the hurricane, including non-perishable foods, canned goods, water, toothbrushes, shampoo, blankets, undergarments, flashlights, clothing, batteries and toiletries. People can drop donations off at Sanders’ district office at 142-01 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon cautioned that the recovery efforts would need to combat an immense and dire need in Haiti.

“At least 1.4 million people need assistance at this time. Some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map. Crops and good reserves have been destroyed. At least 300 schools have been damaged,” Moon said Monday. “These numbers and needs are growing as more affected areas are reached. Tensions are already mounting as people await help.”

Some estimates, including a Reuters tally, have put the death toll as high as 1,000. Matthew made landfall in Haiti as a Category 4 storm before hovering along the coast of Florida and making landfall in the United States Saturday. Members of the FDNY, NYPD and NYC Emergency Management traveled to North Carolina to help with necessary relief tasks. The New York City team worked in the towns of Fayetteville and Lumberton, conducting water rescues of stranded people.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that city employees would be able to directly donate a portion of their paychecks to relief efforts from the damage wrought by the hurricane in Haiti.

“Many at home and abroad have lost their homes and their loved ones in Hurricane Matthew’s devastating wake, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time,” de Blasio said. “As the extent of damage continues to be assessed, we want to make it as easy as possible to donate.”

According to the mayor’s office, 100 percent of donations will go to the cause.

Moon also expressed concern about an increase in cholera, a potentially deadly water-borne illness, in the region as a result of the storm’s damage to Haiti, which is already grappling with the disease. The World Health Organization pledged to send a million vaccines to the nation, but it remains difficult for rescue agencies to reach some of the country’s hardest-hit areas.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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