Fri | Sep 20, 2019

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke pushes bill to aid Bahamians

Published:Thursday | September 12, 2019 | 12:14 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke.

Proposed legislation introduced by Caribbean-American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke aimed at providing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Bahamian nationals recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian is receiving strong support less than 24 hours after it was tabled.

Specifically, the TPS for Victims of Hurricane Dorian Act would allow Bahamians in the United States (US) to remain in America during this difficult chapter for the islands under the TPS programme. There is a long-standing history of using this programme to permit victims of natural disasters and other humanitarian crises in designated countries.

Clarke’s communications and digital director, Sarah Sinovic, told The Gleaner that they are hopeful that the legislation makes it to committee and mark-up, a process by which a US congressional committee or state legislative session debates, amends, and rewrites proposed legislation.

“The congresswoman knows the urgency. She has gained a lot of co-sponsors today, so there are a lot of congress members who understand this urgency also. Hopefully, as more people sign on to this, it will further create a sense of greater urgency here in the House,” Sinovic said.

She said that Clarke and her team are hopeful that the legislation will pass in the Congress.

“The bottom line is that people’s lives have changed, and so we are hoping that the administration will see the devastation this hurricane has created and do what’s right here. This is not a partisan issue. It’s about the people who have been impacted in the Bahamas,” Sinovic said.

Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, along with fellow Caribbean Caucus Co-Chair Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, as well as Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the measure late Tuesday.

Clarke is a second-generation Caribbean American and is the Immigration Task Force Chair for the Congressional Black Caucus.

The bill is now being backed by 17 congressional members, a significant level of support in less than 24 hours.

Plaskett is the delegate to the United States House of Representatives from the US Virgin Islands’ at-large congressional district, while Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional District in Congress.

legislation to provide respite

Clarke stated that the legislation would help provide some respite in America for people whose lives have been drastically affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.

“When life throws a massive curve ball, Americans stand up to help those who have fallen on bad luck. As a Caribbean-American myself, my heart hurts for those whose lives have changed as they know it back home in the Caribbean. My legislation will assist in easing these folks’ new reality as a result of the devastation they’ve experienced from Hurricane Dorian,” she said.

According to news reports, US officials say they have processed thousands of evacuees from the Bahamas arriving by plane and on cruise ships.

Sinovic believes that the proposed law will pass scrutiny in spite of the position of the administration so as to allow struggling Bahamians the opportunity to get back to some semblance of normalcy following the devastation that has left at least 50 people dead mainly on the hard-hit Abaco island of the archipelago.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com