© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Haitian migrants walk near the Zaragoza-Ysleta international border bridge after being deported from the United States in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on February 3, 2021. REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez
By Ted Hesson and Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will expand Haitian eligibility to a humanitarian program that provides deportation facilities and work permits to immigrants who cannot safely return to their home countries, the Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday.
A new name for what is known as Temporary Protection Status (TPS) will cover an estimated 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States, New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said in a written statement praising the decision.
Democrats, some Republicans, and immigrant advocates had pressured President Joe Biden’s administration to illegally question more Haitians in the country for deportation facilitation. Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, attempted to end most TPS enrollments, including that of Haitians, but was hindered by federal courts.
The TPS program grants deportation and work permits to immigrants whose home countries are exposed to a natural disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary event. The temporary program can be extended by the DHS secretary at intervals of six to 18 months.
Haitians received TPS after a devastating 2010 earthquake in the Caribbean. The program currently includes 59,000 Haitians living in the US since January 2011.
The latest move by the Biden administration would extend the program by 18 months for those already enrolled, and expand eligibility for Haitians in the United States starting May 21.
“Haiti is currently suffering from serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty and a lack of basic resources exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a written statement.
“After careful consideration, we decided that we must do everything we can to support Haitian nationals in the US until conditions in Haiti improve so that they can return home safely.”
Mayorkas stressed that Haitians coming to the US after May 21 are not eligible and could be deported.
The leadership conference on Civil and Human Rights and more than 100 other organizations this week called on the Biden government to qualify more Haitians for the program -19 crisis and shortages of available vaccines. “
Menendez welcomed the move and said in a statement that it would “avoid destabilizing the island’s fragile recovery efforts”.
The Biden administration opened the TPS program for an estimated 320,000 Venezuelans. Https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-usa/biden-grants-temporary-protected-status-to-venezuelans-in-us-who- flea-countries-riot-idUSKBN2B02H9 lived in the March United States and for several thousand Syrians https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-biden-immigration-syria-int/biden-renews-deportation-relief-for -syrians-in-the-United States-idUSKBN29Y28W im January.
About half of Haitian and Venezuelan immigrants in the US live in Florida, according to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, a major swing state in US elections.
In the coming months, the Biden government will also face decisions on whether to renew or expand TPS eligibility for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and five other countries covered by the program.