Gwen Graham endorsed federal legislation on Wednesday that would grant permanent residency to Haitians and Central Americans who are living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status.
Known as the ESPERER Act, the bill would benefit the more than 300,000 Haitians, Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Salvadorans currently living in the U.S. through TPS, according to Graham.
There are an estimated 32,500 Haitians living under TPS in Florida alone.
Graham’s endorsement of the legislation, which is sponsored by Miami Republican U.S. Rep Carlos Curbelo, is her way of following through on what she described as her “fierce criticism” of the Trump administration’s decision last week to end TPS for the Haitians who sought refuge to the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake.
“Donald Trump lied to Florida’s Haitian community on the campaign trail and stabbed them in the back,” Graham said in a release, referring to Trump’s 2016 promise to support the community. “Haitian Floridians have contributed to our economy, lived in our communities and enriched our state.”
Graham, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former congresswoman, didn’t shy away from attacking current Gov. Rick Scott for being silent on the issue in the wake of the Trump administration’s announcement last week.
But in May Scott had asked the administration to extend the TPS deadline for Haitians.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is a 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is highly anticipated to announce his candidacy after the 2018 Session, also were criticized by Graham.
“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue — this is about who we are as Floridians,” Graham said. “Do our state’s elected officials have the courage to speak out against Trump or will they turn another blind eye as he harms Floridians and our state?”
She added that she hopes the Republican trifecta joins her and the South Florida delegation consisting of U.S. Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson, who all back the bill.