The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced it has extended Haitian immigrants’ access to a program of humanitarian protection for six months.
At least 50,000 Haitian immigrants are registered for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which permits them to live and work in the United States. TPS, offered in the wake of a deadly 2010 earthquake in Haiti, was set to expire July 23. It has been extended through January 22 – though it still disappoints Haitian authorities and activists who’d sought a longer term.
“Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake,” DHS Secretary John Kelly said in a statement, adding that he was “proud of the role the United States has played during this time in helping Haitian friends.”
Kelly said the extension “should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients.”
Haiti sought 1-year minimum
Haiti’s government had urged the United States to extend TPS “for at least another year,” its ambassador to the United States, Paul Altidor, told VOA earlier this month.
Altidor said the Caribbean country was not ready to absorb tens of thousands of returnees “overnight.”
Haiti “has not recovered entirely from the earthquake,” the ambassador said, noting that not all of the financial aid pledged by “many friends and countries around the world” materialized. He also pointed out that his country had endured additional setbacks, such as a cholera epidemic and a devastating hurricane last October.
Altidor said the administration of President Jovenel Moise, who took office in February, is just beginning to put together reconstruction and development plans.
The ambassador also noted that some Haitian nationals have given birth to children who are U.S. citizens giving mixed status to families that could be torn apart. Those living in the United States “for the most part … have been quite productive members of society for the past few years,” he said.
Immigration advocates and some lawmakers had urged DHS to extend Haiti’s TPS status for 18 months.
Tiffany Wheatland-Disu, community outreach manager at the New York Immigration Commission, said Monday that a six-month extension “falls far short of what is needed. Assessments as recent as December 2016 indicate that conditions continue to warrant a full 18-month extension. Anything less would would be irresponsible and reckless,” she said.
For instance, people displaced by the hurricane and subsequent hurricanes still are living in camps, Altidor, the ambassador, pointed out.
Haitian immigrant communities are concentrated in South Florida, New York, and in and near Boston, Massachusetts.