Hamed Aleaziz, Buzzfeed, May 22, 2021
The Biden administration will grant more than 100,000 Haitians in the US the opportunity to gain temporary protected status, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to obtain work permits, according to a Department of Homeland Security document provided to BuzzFeed News.
The decision, which immigrant advocates have been pushing for several months, comes as Haiti suffers from a growing political crisis after the opposition party’s calls for the president to step down failed. Reports of increased gang violence and kidnappings have roiled parts of the country, which is already struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Obama administration previously provided temporary protected status for Haitians who had been in the country continuously since 2010, after an earthquake hit near the capital of Port-au-Prince and, according to estimates, more than 200,000 people were killed. Biden administration officials note that the country has not fully recovered from the earthquake.
The designation of temporary protected status will apply to Haitians — or individuals without nationality who last resided in Haiti — who were in the US as of May 21. It will not apply to those who arrive after that day. The decision to create a new designation allows for an additional 100,000 Haitians to become eligible to apply for temporary protected status on top of the more than 50,000 who already have it. The designation of TPS runs for 18 months.
The Trump administration sought to undo the temporary protected status — with an administration official even pressing colleagues for research documenting criminal activity of Haitians in the US — as part of its efforts to restrict immigration. The plans, however, were later scuttled after federal court decisions. Those protections covered Haitians who had been in the US when then-president Barack Obama extended the status to them following the earthquake, and were set to run through October 2021.
“Haitian communities are celebrating today, not just for ourselves, but because today’s news is a reminder to all of us that efforts to do what’s right are effective,” said Shelly Clermenco, a Haitian TPS holder and advocate with UndocuBlack, a network of current and former undocumented Black people. “But this is just the beginning. We need Congress to do what is right and provide a path to citizenship so that my family and I can live fully and freely.”