Haitians who were displaced by the country’s 2010 earthquake and who now reside in the United States will be given Temporary Protected Status for the next 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Saturday.
The decision applies to any Haitian immigrant living in the country as of Friday and anyone who does not have a nationality but who last lived in Haiti. The designation will affect some 150,000 individuals. The Obama administration had granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians who fled the country following the devastating earthquake that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Former president Trump then attempted to revoke their protected status, but his efforts were stopped by the courts.
“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,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “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.”
This move is part of a campaign promise Biden made and is something advocates have been pushing for. “Haiti is currently facing increasingly dismal country conditions, including widespread violence, displacement, human rights violations and kidnappings,” said Anna Gallagher, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “Protecting people from being returned to these conditions is exactly why Congress created [Temporary Protected Status]. The decision is not only correct under the law, but also under morality and our duty to each other as human beings.”
Senators from each side of the aisle were pleased by the extension. “As Haiti passes through an acute political and security crisis and faces enduring humanitarian challenges, this decision provides urgently needed protections for eligible Haitians in the United States,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. “The last thing our country should be doing is forcing an entire community in the U.S. to decide between packing up their lives and tearing their families apart by self-deporting, or becoming undocumented and forced into the shadows of our society.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also applauded the decision. “I welcome the administration’s action to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the United States. It is clear the conditions in Haiti have not improved,” he said.
Haiti has been experiencing a governmental crisis in recent years. Since January of 2020, its parliament has not been functioning, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken described to Congress concerns about “some of the authoritarian and undemocratic actions that we’ve seen” coming from Haiti. UN officials have said it is time for the country to experience a “democratic renewal” to “overcome its protracted political crisis.”