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Homeland Security Extends Protections For Thousands Of Haitians In US

Homeland Security Extends Protections For Thousands Of Haitians In US

Officials from the DHS said there are about 58,700 Haitians living in the U.S. under the temporary protected status. Once designated, individuals from those countries living in the USA are protected from detention and deportation based on their immigration status and are able to apply for work authorizations.

"The secretary has received commitments and statements from the Haitian government that they actually do in fact want their TPS recipients living in the United States to return to Haiti to help rebuild their country", the official said.

More than 20,000 Haitian TPS recipients live in NYC alone, according to 1199SEIU, a service workers union that represents thousands of health aides, many of them Haitian.

Haitian participation in the program was set to expire in July. "That's not going to be fixed in six months".

The Homeland Security Department denied that criminal information would be used to determine whether the Haitians could stay in the United States, saying that department Secretary John Kelly simply wanted more information about program participants. But as he and others have noted during the past few weeks, Haiti has yet to recover from devastating natural disasters and a cholera outbreak that has killed thousands, and uprooting tens of thousands of people who have USA citizen kids, work and pay taxes, and have built their lives here since the 2010 Haiti quake could mean not only misery for them, but have vast reverberations.

Kelly said in a statement that the decision was based on a "careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government". Although officials didn't cite more recent catastrophic events by name, Haiti has been overwhelmed by major events since 2010, including a cholera epidemic that has killed at least 9,500 people; Hurricane Matthew; and food insecurity issues.

The Haitian government had hoped for an 18-month extension from the USA, with the foreign minister telling Le Nouvelliste newspaper that if the Haitians had wanted to come home, they would have already bought tickets.

That's why some experts and Haitian officials worry that cutting off the designation may have ramifications beyond the immediate repatriation of tens of thousands of Haitians.

"After careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government, I have chose to extend the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status for a limited period of six months", Kelly said in a statement. "I had a community activist say to me last night: If every musician did what Wyclef did last night, we would be so far ahead in this campaign for TPS renewal".

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DHS grants the special protection to countries that experience natural disasters and civil war.

And Kelly cites are other signs of improvement: The government has announced plans to rebuild the presidential palace, and conditions have stabilized enough that United Nations forces are preparing to leave the country.

USA officials, though, said in their conversations they believe the Haitian government wants its people back at some point.

Kelly made the announcement a day before the deadline to publish a 60-day notice in the Federal Register announcing its plans for the program.

But Trump administration officials say they believe conditions are improving on the Caribbean island and that Haitians should make plans to return to their home country.

Some, like Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, whose district includes many Haitians and Haitian-Americans, vowed to use the six months to lobby for a longer reprieve for those affected. She said she is inviting Homeland Security officials to visit Haiti to view conditions.

James McCament, President Donald Trump's acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has said Haiti is stable enough for its citizens to no longer need protection from deportation.

"They are trying to play with words, claiming they are extending it for six months", Bastien said.

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