By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — On November 6, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to make a decision as to the continuation of the Temporary Protected Status program that affects over 300,000 foreign nationals currently residing in the United States.
According to a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a provision within the Immigration and Nationality Act to protect foreign nationals currently in the United States. The program grants a temporary legal status—typically for a period of six to eighteen months—to migrants who do may not qualify as refugees, but whose home countries are in some sort of crisis, such as civil unrest, wide-spread violence, or a natural disaster. This allows them to apply for a work permit and a driver’s license and prevents their deportation. There are currently over 300,000 people from 13 countries under Temporary Protected Status, including individuals from Syria, El Salvador, and Haiti. According to The Washington Post, TPS beneficiaries are the parents of around 190,000 US-citizen children.
Haitians were granted TPS in the US by the Obama administration in January 2010 following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed around 200,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless. Haiti has suffered several crises since then, including an outbreak of cholera in late 2010 that infected close to 800,000 and killed over 9,000 people, sexual abuse of hundreds of people at the hands of UN peacekeepers dating back to 2004, as well as a 1,000-people killed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The recent hurricanes have also destroyed infrastructure and caused food shortages across the country.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended Haiti’s TPS several times, the last time being on May 24, 2017. After a bipartisan effort from several Florida politicians, DHS Secretary General John Kelly approved a six-month extension of the July 22, 2017, deadline, but expressed that Haitians should begin preparations to return to Haiti come January 22, 2018. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website, “At least 60 days before Jan. 22, 2018, Secretary Kelly will re-evaluate the designation for Haiti and will determine whether another extension, a re-designation, or a termination is warranted, in full compliance of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
There are 59,000 Haitians living in the US under TPS, 80% of which are employed; $1.3 billion in remittances from US-based Haitians accounted for 15% of Haiti’s economy in 2015.
In contrast, Haiti is currently the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with 6 million people—approximately 59% of the population—living below the national poverty line.
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