tps haiti
A protester in Florida rallies in support of TPS protections. Courtesy Miami Herald

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

The Biden administration is granting a new 18-month designation of Temporary Protected Status to Haiti, a significant move that not only alleviates the threat of deportation for thousands of Haitians but recognizes that conditions are so dire in a turmoil-plagued Haiti that its nationals cannot safely return.

Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the decision Saturday amid Haiti’s deepening political and constitutional crisis and spike in COVID-19 cases.

The temporary humanitarian protections, he said, will be extended to eligible Haitians living in the United States as of Friday. This includes upwards of 60,000 Haitians who were already benefiting from the protected status but had been living under fear of deportation amid an attempt by the Trump administration to terminate the program and thousands of recently arrived Haitian immigrants who lacked the protected status.

“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mayorkas. “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.”

Under TPS, foreign nationals in the United States are allowed to temporarily live and work in the United States if U.S. authorities determine that conditions in their country of origin are too dangerous for a return. Human rights and immigration activists have been calling on the Biden administration to not only continue with the protected status for Haiti, but to recognize Haiti’s worsening conditions by redesignating the country to allow a broader group of people from being sent back.

The Biden administration’s decision could benefit more than 100,000 Haitians, immigration activists say. The decision is being welcomed by Haitian community leaders, immigration rights activist and U.S. lawmakers, who have written letters, staged rallies and called on Biden to issue the new designation amid Haiti’s ongoing turmoil.

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