Temporary Protected Status
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti, one of our nation’s newer TPS programs, has been extended from July 23, 2014 to January 22, 2016.
The 60-day re-registration period begins March 3, 2014 and will remain in effect until May 2, 2014.
Department of Homeland Security leader Jeh Johnson, via notice in the Federal Register, stated there continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in Haiti.
Such circumstances, he added, prevent Haitians who have TPS from safely returning to their home country. Thus, Johnson concluded it is not contrary to the U.S. national interests to permit Haitians to remain in the United States temporarily.
The language and reasoning for the new extension was similar to the government’s rationales for earlier 18 month extensions of TPS status for Haitians.
Previously, the Haitian TPS program has been extended until January 22, 2013 and then to July 22, 2014.
At the time of the first extension, former DHS Secretary Napolitano noted, “In the extended aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, the United States has remained fully committed to upholding our responsibility to assist individuals affected by this tragedy by using tools available under the law.”
“Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration’s continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery.”
This is not the entire Haiti TPS story.
Haiti Temporary Protective Status History
After a devastating January 2010 earthquake, the U.S. government designated Haiti for Temporary Protective Status for a period of 18 months.
The original period ran from January 21, 2010 to July 22, 2011. The first re-designation covered July 23, 2011 to January 22, 2013. An extension was granted from January 23, 2013 to July 22, 2014.
According to early government estimates, approximately 230,000 Haitians lost their lives as a result of the earthquake. Damages were calculated at $14 billion.
Shortly after the earthquake, Haiti suffered an outbreak of cholera. The World Health Organization reported, as of March 2011, the outbreak had caused 2,500 deaths and infected close to 250,000 individuals.
Due to this outbreak, as discussed in Haitian TPS Registration To End, Deportations To Begin, the U.S. government’s decision to resume, rather than defer, deportation of certain Haitian nationals in early 2011 seems misplaced. For example, in one reported incident, a Haitian national who had been a lawful permanent resident for 17 years died of cholera-related symptoms shortly after he was deported.
Why The New TPS Extension For Haitians?
In its recent extension, DHS provided updated and expanded information on the Haiti situation.
“While the Government of Haiti has made considerable progress in improving security and quality of life of its citizens following the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti continues to lack the adequate infrastructure, employment and educational opportunities, and basic services to absorb the approximately 58,000 Haitian nationals living in the United States under TPS.”
In particular, the DHS Federal Register noted:
- Haitian government officials now estimate the death toll caused by the earthquake between 230,000 to 316,000.
- 964 schools were damaged by the earthquake, affecting more than 200,000 children. Since then, many schools have been reconstructed, but a vast shortage still exists.
- Unemployment in Haiti was at 40% percent as of July 2013. More than 78% are living on less than $2 per day, and over 50% live on less than $1 per day..
- In rural areas, 88 percent of individuals now live below the poverty line and basic services are practically nonexistent.
- There have been 693,875 cumulative cholera cases and 8,482 deaths as of November 30, 2013. Meanwhile, resources for the cholera response, which includes, funding and staff, has been in steady decline since 2012.
- Following the January 2010 earthquake, approximately 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless and placed in temporary camps. As of September 2013, 172,000 individuals still live in temporary camps.
- The displacement led to increased risks for Haiti’s populace. Many displaced to camps and other marginalized areas have been subjected to a high risk of crime, gender-based violence, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and forced child labor.
- Kidnappings, death threats, murders, armed robberies, home break-ins, and carjacking continue to occur in large urban centers of Haiti. Over 16,000 households have been victims of forced evictions, several by police officers. A few months ago, the United Nations Security Council extended the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti until mid-October 2014.
The Deportation Of Haitian Nationals
Yet, back on December 9, 2010, DHS officials announced although they were re-starting the process of deporting Haitians, they would only remove “serious criminal offenders” from the United States.
Many TPS advocates, however, do not accept the government’s word at face value. They know that in other immigration ventures, the government has made similar pronouncements – only to arbitrarily apprehend and deport immigrants with minor, non-violent convictions as well as some with no criminal offenses. This administration, they stress, has set all-time records for deporting immigrants.
And reported cases of low-level criminal offenders being deported to Haiti have continued to surface in recent months.
Haitian supporters also point to the long delay in re-extending TPS for Haitians. Usually, decisions to extend TPS are made several months in advance. When ongoing delays are coupled with the renewal of Haitian deportations, it’s not far-fetched to feel the government was contemplating an end to temporary protective benefits for Haiti.
Given that the government comprehends the magnitude of the crisis in Haiti, critics question the motives behind the Obama administration’s schizophrenic approach to Haiti.
After all, the administration claims it expects to only deport about 700 Haitians. This is not a large number. Why the hurry?
Haiti TPS Benefits And Requirements
Temporary Protected Status is a special humanitarian program created in 1990.
The policy behind TPS is to provide immigrants with a temporary safe harbor while they are not capable of returning safely to their home country due to armed conflict like war, an environmental disaster, war, and other extraordinary severe conditions.
As a green card lawyer, I’ve seen how TPS helps immigrants rebuild their lives after their homes have been destroyed or families have perished as part of a national disaster.
In general, the following benefits are granted as part of winning TPS status:
- You are allowed to have valid immigration status for the 18 month period
- You are eligible for a work permit, which allows you to work legally in the United States
- You may be able to temporarily halt deportation and removal proceedings against you
- You are eligible to later adjust your immigration status, if you meet certain requirements, and become a lawful permanent resident
- You are eligible to apply for permission to travel abroad
Originally, to qualify for TPS, Haitians had to prove they had been continuously residing in the United States since January 12, 2010.
Under the present regulations, if you’re Haitian and you have not continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 12, 2011, you will not be eligible. In addition, you need to prove you have maintained continuous physical residence in the U.S. since July 23, 2011.
The re-designation rules permit eligible individuals who arrived up to one year after the earthquake in Haiti to receive the protection of TPS. Many of these individuals were authorized to enter the United States after the earthquake on temporary visas, humanitarian parole and other immigration measures.
I learned long ago, in my role as Riverside immigration attorney, clients should always file for immigration benefits as early as possible.
It’s sad but true that some immigrants, whatever the new program, miss filing their applications on time.
I strongly encourage you not to fall into this trap. Do not wait until the last moment to file your immigration paperwork.
If you would like to know more about TPS for Haiti, here is the USCIS link: USCIS Fact Sheet on Haiti.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics