WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is allowing eligible Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. to apply for a new 18-month designation for temporary protected status, reversing a Trump administration effort that had sought to end the special consideration.
In a statement Saturday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas cited security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty and other problems in Haiti for the decision.
“After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home," Mayorkas said.
DHS says a foreign country may be designated for temporary protected status, or TPS, because of conditions that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely or because the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. While a person with TPS cannot be removed from the U.S., DHS notes that it is a temporary benefit that doesn’t lead to lawful permanent resident status or give any other immigration status.
DHS initially designated Haiti for TPS in January 2010 in the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the country. The designation was extended several times until the Trump administration announced in January 2018 that Haiti’s TPS designation would end effective July 22, 2019. Several lawsuits challenging the termination have allowed the designation to remain in effect.
“Today, the Biden administration affirmed America’s commitment to its humanitarian values,“ Murad Awawdeh, executive director for the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement. “Haitian New Yorkers can now rest easier knowing that their families can stay together and in their communities as a vital part of our economic and social fabric."
The NYIC, an umbrella group for policy and advocacy organizations in the state, estimates that 5,200 Haitian recipients of TPS reside in New York. Saturday's renewal of TPS affects more than the 50,000 Haitians living in the U.S. while redesignating TPS for Haitians who arrived in the U.S. after 2010 could benefit up to 100,000 more, according to the NYIC.
Among lawmakers applauding the decision was Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. “The last thing our country should be doing is forcing an entire community in the U.S. to decide between packing up their lives and tearing their families apart by self-deporting, or becoming undocumented and forced into the shadows of our society,” Menendez said.
DHS said the new TPS designation enables Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. as of Friday — as well as individuals without nationality who last resided in Haiti — to file initial applications for TPS, so long as they meet eligibility requirements. Those who attempt to travel to the U.S. after the announcement will not be eligible for TPS and may be sent home, the agency said.
Haiti’s 18-month designation will go into effect on the publication date of the Federal Register notice, which DHS said will come shortly and provide instructions for applying.
Individuals eligible for TPS under the new designation must file an application for TPS with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the registration period, DHS said. Current beneficiaries under Haiti’s TPS designation also must apply, the agency said.