The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians for six additional months, according to a statement from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. The previous Haitian TPS extension was for eighteen months.
“After careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government, I have decided to extend the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status for a limited period of six-months,” Secretary Kelly said in a statement released to the press today. “Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010 and…[t]he Haitian economy continues to recover and grow, and 96 percent of people displaced by the earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those camps. Even more encouraging is that over 98 percent of these camps have closed. Also indicative of Haiti’s success in recovering from the earthquake seven years ago is the Haitian government’s stated plans to rebuild the Haitian President’s residence at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, and the withdrawal of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.”
Many relief officials disagree with Secretary Kelly’s assertion that Haiti is a safe place for 58,000 Haitians to return to. Haiti was struck by Hurricane Matthew last year and recently endured an outbreak of cholera. Neither of these facts is mentioned by Kelly in the statement.
Kelly said that the six-month extension would “allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States.” Kelly said that while no final decision has been made to terminate Haitian TPS, but that “I believe there are indications that Haiti – if its recovery from the 2010 earthquake continues at pace – may not warrant further TPS extension past January 2018.”
Only Haitians who were in the United States by January 12, 2011, are eligible for the extended Haitian TPS. Temporary Protected Status was granted following the 2010 Haitian earthquake, which took as many as 300,000 lives. The new extension would end on January 22, 2018.
DHS says that further instructions for Haitians with TPS will be issued later this week. Haitians are advised to renew their status as soon as possible and to begin exploring alternative ways of securing legal immigration status, such as through immigration petitions by relatives. The new extension is seen by some as a signal that TPS for Haitians may soon be terminated.
This announcement sent a chill through Central American immigrant communities. TPS for Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans are all up for renewal over the next ten months and advocates fear they too may be under consideration for termination.