Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Saturday he was opening a new grant of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians living in the U.S., saying that country’s unrest is so bad that people shouldn’t be forced to return home.
Advocacy groups said perhaps 100,000 Haitians living in the U.S. — many of them illegally — can be protected. TPS grants them a deportation amnesty and allows them to obtain legal work permits, Social Security numbers and some taxpayer benefits.
“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,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
The move is the latest in the Biden administration’s effort to reinvigorate TPS, adding hundreds of thousands of people to the ranks of protection in little more than four months.
By contrast, the Trump administration had sought to rein in the program, which has become controversial because the grants, while supposedly temporary, often stretch for decades.
Indeed, tens of thousands of Haitians are still here under protections from a TPS grant issued in 2010, after a major earthquake devastated the country.
Those beneficiaries will be able to renew their status, and Haitians who arrived since then can also now apply.
“The situation in Haiti remains dire, which is why TPS remains a lifeline for Haitian families fleeing environmental degradation, violence and extreme poverty in their home country,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director for The New York Immigration Coalition.
Haiti is experiencing a wave of kidnappings and killings, which comes on top of an already high level of violence that pervades the island nation.
Meanwhile, President Jovenel Moïse has been accused of governing as an autocrat, with his plans for upcoming elections on changes to the Constitution sparking deep divisions.
TPS is supposed to grant a temporary reprieve from having to return home to a country facing upheaval. Natural disasters, political unrest or pandemics have all been cited as reasons for TPS.
The status is supposed to be lifted once conditions in the country improve.
But until the Trump administration, many of the major TPS grants were renewed almost automatically.
Migrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras have been living in the U.S. for two decades under grants that date back to the turn of the century.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are pushing legislation that would grant TPS holders a pathway to citizenship, arguing once here they should be given permanent status.