The United States will extend temporary protection against deportation to Haitian citizens already in the country, the Department of Homeland Security announced Saturday, in an action that immigration advocates welcomed as “long-standing.”
The state of temporary protection (TPS) protects immigrants from designated nations from deportation and grants them work permits in the United States on the grounds that it would not be safe to return them to their countries of origin due to a crisis. , such as an armed conflict or a natural disaster.
The new 18-month designation will apply to Haitians who have lived in the United States since May 21 and who also meet other eligibility criteria, said National Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas. statement.
“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, rising human rights abuses, crippling poverty and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayorkas said.
“After careful consideration, we determined that we must do everything we can to support Haitian citizens in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so that they can return home safely.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump had tried to cancel TPS for Haiti in 2018, but the courts blocked his efforts.
Lawmakers and immigration advocates have urged President Joe Biden, who took office in January with the promise of reversing some of Trump’s toughest anti-immigration policies, to expand the program. TPS was first offered to Haitians after a 2010 earthquake devastated the country.
Dozens of people in the U.S. state of Florida, home to a large Haitian community in and around Miami, protested this week to demand an extension of the TPS program, local media reported.
The new TPS designation “will maintain approximately 150,000 [Haitian] “Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter statement.
“As Haiti goes through an acute political and security crisis and faces enduring humanitarian challenges, this decision provides urgently needed protections for eligible Haitians in the United States,” he said.
Haiti has lived months of political instability and growing violence, and also struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Haitians took to the streets in demonstrations over the controversial term of President Jovenel Moise, whose term they said most legal experts and civil society groups ended on February 7th. But the president and his supporters have insisted that only his five-year term expires in 2022.
“Today’s news is the result of countless hours of organization, advocacy, and mobilization among black immigrant leaders,” said Patrice Lawrence, co-director of the UndocuBlack Network, a current and former undocumented black advocacy group in the US.
“But as we celebrate today’s news, we know that the work is just beginning. Other mostly black countries, including Cameroon, Mauritania, the Bahamas and St. Vincent, should also receive the TPS designation immediately, “Lawrence said in a statement.
“I am very happy with the 150,000 families who can sleep soundly tonight knowing that they are safe thanks to the designation of TPS for Haiti. Grateful, hopeful and ecstatic “, Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance community group, he tweeted.
The rights group at the Center for Refugees and Immigrants for Education and Legal Services (RAICES-Texas) also said the decision “had been long overdue,” but more work needs to be done to protect the headlines. of TPS.
“Without the redesign of TPS, Haitians have lived in uncertainty in recent months. In the future, this could certainly be resolved through a permanent solution through legislation that would put TPS holders on the path to citizenship, ”the group tweeted.
Without a redesign of TPS, Haitians have lived in uncertainty for the past few months. In the future, this could uncertainly be resolved through a permanent solution through legislation that would put TPS holders on the path to citizenship.
– ROOTS (@RAICESTEXAS) May 22, 2021
Separately, migration advocates had raised the alarm earlier this year over reports that the Biden administration was sending Haitian migrants to Haiti. Title 42, a public health directive established by former President Donald Trump.
The Haitian Bridge Alliance, Don Quixote Center and UndocuBlack said some 1,200 people had been sent to Haiti after trying to enter the United States on the country’s southern border with Mexico between Feb. 1 and March 25.
“Haitian migrants flee violence, instability and persecution in Haiti and then travel to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of safety and security in the United States,” said Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. statement accompanying a report on the expulsions of Title 42 (PDF).
“Instead of security, they are mistreated by immigration agents and, according to the policy of Title 42, are summarily deported to the country who fled without any possibility of seeking protection. As this report explains, these deportations not only they are tragic, but they are illegal ”.
Haitian asylum seekers have also been returned to Mexico under Title 42 and have complained racism and harassment in Mexican border cities.
But despite the challenges they face in Mexico, Haitian migrants told Al Jazeera last month that they have no choice but to stay.
“My family had nothing in Haiti, no home, no food, no money,” said Edile Eglaus, a Haitian asylum seeker who lives in an immigrant shelter on the outskirts of Tijuana with his wife and his two children. “Whatever happens, going back to that is impossible.”