WASHINGTON—The Biden administration is offering deportation protections to about 150,000 Haitians living in the U.S. illegally, amid worsening political and civil unrest on the island nation and calls from immigrant advocates to halt deportations there.
“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources,” said Homeland Security Secretary
in a statement Saturday.
The designation of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, by the Department of Homeland Security will grant Haitians in the U.S. work permits and shield them from deportation for 18 months, a term that can be renewed.
About 100,000 Haitians are currently living in the U.S. without permission, DHS estimates, and they will be eligible to receive temporary immigration protections under the program so long as they were present in the U.S. as of Friday.
In addition, 54,000 Haitians were previously granted TPS. Their protections from deportation will be extended.
TPS, a program created by Congress in 1990, gives the secretary of Homeland Security the authority to provide legal protections and work permits to immigrants from countries deemed too dangerous to return to, typically because of wars or natural disasters.
The country has been roiled by violent protests and security concerns since its president,
refused to leave office in February and began presiding over a rewrite of the nation’s constitution to grant himself greater power.
The U.S. State Department warns that kidnappings, robberies and other attacks are common, even just outside the country’s main airport in its capital, Port-au-Prince.
The country has still not fully recovered from a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed an estimated 200,000 people and leveled parts of the capital, Mr. Mayorkas said, and the nation has struggled to address a continuing Covid-19 outbreak.
(D., N.J.) and
(R., Fla.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had called on the Biden administration to take the step in March, citing the continuing unrest in Haiti. Florida, Mr. Rubio’s home state, is home to one of the U.S.’s largest Haitian populations.
“While the Government of Haiti has been able to receive limited numbers of Haitian nationals removed from the United States, it lacks the capacity to provide the needed reception and care for tens of thousands of returnees,” Sens. Rubio and Menendez wrote in a March letter to Mr. Mayorkas.
The Obama administration granted TPS for Haitians present in the U.S. in 2010 just after the earthquake, according to DHS, which was extended repeatedly through the Obama and Trump administrations.
In 2018, the Trump administration attempted to end TPS for citizens of Haiti—along with several other countries—a move that would have stripped legal protections from those Haitians along with tens of thousands of other immigrants.
A federal court blocked the Trump administration from doing so, and though that decision was overturned in 2020 by an appeals court, protections for affected immigrants aren’t set to expire until the fall.
The Biden administration’s decision to extend the program for Haiti means protections for Haitians will go uninterrupted.
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Source: WSJ – US News