Tuesday, May 17, 2011

U.S. extends Temporary Protected Status to Hatians

Earthquake survivors Photo: Matthew Marek/IFRC
Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eighteen additional months for Haitians who currently reside in the United States under TPS status. She further announced that she would allow Haitians who arrived here during the year after the earthquake to apply for TPS. The announcement is not only a great help to all Haitians affected by last year’s devastating earthquake, it also demonstrates the humanitarian side of U.S. immigration.

In the chaotic days following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, DHS admitted many Hatian earthquake survivors to the U.S. temporarily to save them from devastation, disease, and starvation. DHS quickly designated TPS status for 48,000 Haitians residing in the U.S. at the time of the earthquake.

But the many others who came to the U.S. within days or weeks of the disaster were not eligible for TPS. They were also unable to return home to Haiti because of the devastation there. But now they will be able to apply to continue living here legally and also to get authorization to work.

"Today’s announcement addresses these problems and recognizes the extraordinary need for a compassionate and humane response to the devastation in Haiti," explained Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center.

The extension and re-designation are effective until January 22, 2013.

The Executive branch has a good deal of power to shape the way current immigration law is implemented. Napolitano could have declined to extend TPS or make more people eligible. But, thanks to her decision, the U.S. will be able to help thousands of people who might otherwise have faced deportation to Haiti and enormous suffering.

Unfortunately, DHS will continue to deport some Haitians back to Haiti. This measure, which began earlier this year, has already served a death sentence to some deportees. But today's immigration-related announcement serves the humanitarian spirit that represents the best of the U.S. and is a reason to celebrate.

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