The Biden administration on Saturday announced it is granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian nationals who are currently living in the U.S. for 18 months amid ongoing security concerns, poverty and human rights abuses in the country.
TPS protects nationals of designated countries living in the U.S. from potential deportation if they are eligible and also allows them to apply for work permits, as well as giving them the freedom to travel. Those eligible for the Haitian TPS designation need to be in the country as of May 21.
“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,” DHS 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.”
BuzzFeed News, which first reported the development, reported that it would potentially affect more than 100,000 Haitian nationals.
DHS cited the country’s recent political crisis, as well as an economic situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the 2010 earthquake as reasons for the designation. It will apply to some Haitians who have been in the U.S. since 2010.
“The designation of Haiti for TPS also is not contrary to the national interest of the United States,” the DHS statement said.
TPS status is granted based on three grounds: armed ongoing conflict, environmental disasters or “extraordinary and temporary conditions.” The program has been criticized before by immigration hawks, who argue the designation often protects those here illegally and are extended for well beyond the immediate time period of an initial emergency or crisis.
Haiti was designated for TPS in 2010 after a massive earthquake devastated the country. That status was extended multiple times, including in 2017, until the Trump administration sought to terminate that status in July 2019 — a move that faced legal challenges that has so far kept the status in place pending the outcome of the case. Activist groups had called for the Biden administration to re-designate the country.
The news was immediately welcomed by Democrats in the House and Senate.
“I applaud the Biden administration’s decision to support the people of Haiti and reaffirm our commitment to a more humane and principled approach to immigration,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a statement. “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.”
“I am proud that the Biden administration has heeded my call to redesignate Haiti for TPS,” Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-NY, said in a statement. “At a time when Haiti is in the midst of a once-in-a-generation humanitarian crisis, this redesignation will save lives.”
Groups calling for less immigration overall, however, were skeptical of the designation and the DHS claim that it was in the national interest renew the designation.
“Anything Secretary Mayorkas does on immigration is not in the national interest and this Saturday afternoon decision is yet another example,” RJ Hauman, head of government relations for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) said in a statement. “The original Haitian TPS designation came in 2010 due to an earthquake. The Biden administration is destroying even more public confidence in immigration programs functioning as intended – namely, providing short term relief to people whose nations have been disrupted by a natural disaster or a political crisis. I hope the American people are watching.”