A large number of lawmakers on Friday requested that the White House grant temporary protected status to Haitians who have fled to the U.S.  

Eighty-one House members, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), wrote the White House requesting that the immigration change be made. Conyers on Friday was joined by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in his call for a status change.


"We believe that it is imperative that the administration exercise its authority to designate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)," the lawmakers wrote. "It is abundantly clear that extraordinary and temporary conditions now exist preventing Haiti from being able to adequately and safely handle the return of its nationals currently in the United States."

Gillibrand first requested that the Department of Homeland Security grant Haitian nationals the status that would allow them to remain in the U.S.

The 81 lawmakers noted that the request was also made in 2008 after tropical storms hit the impoverished island nation. 

The letter was signed by 74 Democrats and seven Republicans.

This time around a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated much of the country and its capital, Port-au-Price. Hundreds of thousands are reported dead and roads, buildings and hospitals are reported to be completely destroyed.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said at his briefing Friday that the Department of Homeland Security may have an answer on its position later Friday afternoon.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar (Ind.), on Friday issued a release asking DHS to grant the status to Haitian nationals for 18 moths.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also called on the Obama administration to make the change.

"We must grant temporary protective status so that those on the island can focus on helping those most at need and begin efforts to rebuild," chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

The SEIU — one of the nation's most powerful labor groups — also called on the president to approve TPS, citing the earthquake and ongoing poverty in Haiti.

"Now is the time for President Obama to step up his support of the Haitian people and finally grant temporary protective status (TPS) to Haitians living in the U.S.," SEIU Vice President Eliseo Medina said in a release.