Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has extended Temporary Protected Status, TPS, for Haitians for six months. The TPS program that has allowed tens of thousands of Haitians to remain in the United States following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
TPS is a form of humanitarian relief and temporary immigration status the U.S. government grants to foreign nationals in the United States who are unable to return safely to their home countries. This could be because of a natural disaster, outbreak of a disease, or a civil war.
TPS was first granted to eligible Haitians who were in the U.S. when a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck their home country in 2010. In the seven years since, Haitian TPS-holders have been living safely and thriving in this country. They have become our neighbors, classmates, colleagues and friends. They are non-criminals immigrants who undergo a background check every time they renew their TPS status. They are also hard working and pay taxes.
Haiti’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake has been undermined by drought, prolonged economic instability, public health crises, and natural disasters. Today, 1.65 million people in Haiti are at risk of cholera infection. The United Nations has been struggling to address the country’s humanitarian needs with incredibly limited funding. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew killed hundreds and affected the daily lives of almost 20 percent of the country’s population. The storm brought flooding and widespread destruction, and wiped out entire sectors of the agriculture, fishing and livestock industries. Recovery is ongoing and fragile, and we have no reason to believe that will fundamentally change in the foreseeable future. Threatening to send people back to a country so plagued with disaster and crisis would set a dangerous precedent.
Contrary to these conditions, Trump administration officials believe Haiti’s living conditions is improving and Haitians should make plans to return to their home country soon. Secretary Kelly cites that the Haitian government has plans to rebuild the presidential palace, and conditions have stabilized enough that U.N. forces are preparing to leave the country as a pretext for finding that Haiti is no longer in need of the TPS designation.
A report prepared by the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, James McCament, in April recommended the Secretary terminate the program, but delay the effective date until January to allow "a period of orderly transition."
In the coming months, TPS is also set to expire for over 186,000 Salvadorans and over 70,000 Hondurans. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center estimates that ending TPS for Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras would lead to a $45.2 billion reduction in United States’ GDP over a decade. Deporting TPS-holders from these three countries would cost U.S. taxpayers $3.1 billion.
In the past few weeks, faith leaders, physicians, humanitarian organizations, unions, members of Congress, mayors, governors, and the ambassador of Haiti to the U.S. all urged Kelly to continue TPS for Haiti stating that: “[w]e are acutely aware of the stakes. Haiti is in no position to reintegrate tens of thousands of Haitian TPS-holders, and we are glad that DHS made the right decision in the short term.”
For now, TPS has been extended until January of 2018. Current TPS holders have until July 24, 2017 to file the proper immigration documents with USCIS to renew their TPS status. For the most part, only current TPS holders are eligible to file for an extension. During this six-month extension, beneficiaries are encouraged to prepare for their return to Haiti in the event Haiti’s designation is not extended again, including requesting updated travel documents from the government of Haiti.
To re-register, current TPS beneficiaries must submit: Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status or Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether they want an EAD.