The United States on Saturday said it would allow tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants to reapply for temporary protected status to remain in the country for 18 months, citing the island nation’s political crisis and rampant crime.
“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,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
The announcement signals relief for a number of Haitians immigrants, whose legal status was in limbo following a 2017 announcement by then president Donald Trump that would have removed their TPS protection. That move faced fierce legal backlash and is still making its way through 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,” Mayorkas said.
These conditions, the Homeland Security statement added, would “prevent nationals from returning safely” to Haiti and prompted the new 18-month designation.
The US government grants TPS to citizens of countries facing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions, effectively shielding them from deportation.
Haitians were first granted TPS under then-president Barack Obama following an 2010 earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people and destroyed much of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.
Nearly 60,000 Haitians took refuge in the United States following the earthquake, and their protected status was extended several times, until Trump’s 2017 announcement.