Biden extends temporary protections to 100,000 Haitians in the U.S.

The Biden administration on Monday granted more than 100,000 Haitians living in the United States the opportunity to apply for work permits and protection from deportation to their home country, which was devastated by an earthquake, disease outbreaks and widespread violence.

The US previously granted this designation, known as temporarily protected status, to Haitians in May 2021. Biden’s move ensures Haitians who have been in the country since November 6 this year are eligible to apply for status.

The Biden administration has also allowed Ukrainians and Afghans in the US to apply for temporary protected status this year. Biden’s expansion of TPS is a departure from his predecessor’s practice.

Former President Trump has repeatedly sought to reduce the number of immigrants eligible for status granted to people who cannot be safely deported due to war, natural disasters or other disasters in their countries of origin.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, estimates that Biden did offered TPS entitlement to an additional 575,000 immigrants since he took office. Conservatives and those in favor of policies restricting immigration contend that the extension of TPS has been overused and that the Trump administration has attempted to reverse some of the earlier designations.

“We are providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to Haitian nationals already in the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. “Conditions in Haiti, including socioeconomic challenges, political instability, and gang violence and crime — exacerbated by environmental disasters — have compelled the humanitarian response we are providing today.”

An estimated 101,000 Haitians have protection and an additional 53,000 have pending applications with the government. The expansion, announced Monday, makes about 110,000 newly eligible to apply for TPS. For those who currently have TPS, the administration also extended protection through August 2024.

Pressure to increase the number of Haitians eligible for immigration protection has come largely from the left. Several members of Congress have sent letters to Mayorkas in recent weeks calling for the move. Sen. Charles E. Schumer voiced his support for the expansion in a press briefing hosted by an immigrant advocacy group last week.

Haiti has faced major challenges after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last year and the assassination of the country’s president in July 2021. In recent months, armed gangs have taken control of ports and restricted Haitians’ access to food. Nearly 5 million Haitians are food insecure, the UN reported in November. Cholera has been documented.

“People get killed by guns. They die because they don’t have access to safe drinking water, food and health care,” said Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in November. “Women are gang raped with impunity. The level of insecurity and the dire humanitarian situation are devastating for the people of Haiti.”

In September 2021, the Biden administration came under fire from pro-immigrants for deporting thousands of Haitians who had formed a large encampment under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. The government relied heavily on Title 42, a measure that allows the Department of Homeland Security to quickly deport people at the border before deportations are rolled back into the country. In recent months, the government has been concerned that the deteriorating situation in Haiti could increase sea migration out of the country.

The government may renew a nationality’s eligibility for TPS. Certain Haitians, for example, are eligible, with repeated renewals since an earthquake devastated their homeland in 2010. The Biden administration expanded the number of Haitians eligible for protection over the past year.

The US State Department has advised US citizens not to travel to Haiti and does not allow US Embassy staff to travel from the airport without official staff. The agency is also recommending that US citizens leave the country.

“Don’t go to Haiti for kidnapping, crime and civil unrest. US citizens should leave Haiti now given the current safety, health and infrastructure issues. US citizens wishing to leave Port-au-Prince should check local news and only do so if deemed safe,” the State Department’s official warning about the country said.

Last week, the US imposed sanctions on a Haitian senator and a former Haitian senator for alleged drug trafficking. Some Biden administration officials are pushing for a multinational force to be dispatched to quell the situation in the country, according to The New York Times reported last week. Biden extends temporary protections to 100,000 Haitians in the U.S.

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