A coalition of more than 400 advocacy groups on Tuesday called on the Biden administration to renew a key immigration program to protect all Haitians in the United States from deportation.
In a letter to President Biden, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the 422 groups led by Haitian Bridge Alliance asked the officials to extend and redesignate Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation.
Extending TPS for Haiti would give current beneficiaries more time in the program, and redesignation would grant TPS benefits to Haitians who entered the United States after July of 2021.
Under TPS, the citizens of a designated country are allowed to work and live in the United States regardless of their prior immigration status, but they must register for the program and pass background checks, and they are generally not afforded legal avenues to permanent residency.
The Biden administration last redesignated TPS for Haiti in March of 2021 for 18 months — the maximum allowed period — meaning the designation will expire in February 2023, although Mayorkas has until Dec. 5 to decide whether he will grant an extension.
“Given the deteriorating security and humanitarian crises as described herein that present extraordinary and temporary conditions that make a safe return to Haiti impossible, the Administration should extend and redesignate Haiti for TPS. This will allow protection against removal and eligibility for work authorization to all eligible Haitians currently in the United States,” the groups wrote.
TPS is generally granted to countries suffering from the effects of either human-made or natural disasters — and some designations have been more or less summarily renewed for decades, as TPS beneficiaries have become part of the U.S. social fabric.
The Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to gut the TPS program, claiming that its temporary protections had been made permanent by prior administrations.
Haiti’s first designation was in 2010, following an earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and set off some of the instability that now has the country teetering on the edge of failed state status.
“All of the conditions leading to the Biden administration’s original TPS redesignation on May 22, 2021, the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021, the August 14, 2021 earthquake and subsequent tropical storm, and the deteriorating crises as described herein, make a safe return to Haiti completely impossible,” the groups wrote.
“On November 3, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk echoed this sentiment and warned, ‘In this context, it is clear that the systematic violations of rights in Haiti do not currently allow for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of Haitians to the country,'” they added.
The Biden administration is widely expected to extend the country’s current TPS designation — not doing so would make tens of thousands of Haitians eligible for deportation — but it’s unclear whether officials will also redesignate Haiti.
“Most Haitians who have entered the United States since the TPS eligibility date of July 29, 2021, crossed through as many as eleven countries on a dangerous and traumatic voyage in search of safety and security for their family,” the advocates wrote.
Haitian migration both by land and by sea has increased, as conditions in the country worsen.
The Biden administration’s decision to repatriate more than 25,000 Haitians during the crisis has aggravated conditions in the Caribbean nation, and potentially put the expelled Haitians in danger.
Given conditions on the ground, the advocates also called for a freeze on deportations to Haiti, a measure the Obama administration took after the 2010 earthquake, although the administration resumed them in September 2016.
The Biden administration refused to halt removals to Haiti after a 2021 earthquake aggravated conditions.
“Even though the Haitian government has been unable to safely receive and reintegrate its citizens, there have been over 240 deportation and expulsion flights to Haiti since September 19, 2021. Most of these estimated 25,000 individuals removed to Haiti were blocked from seeking asylum and other protection by Title 42 policies. These removals severely undermine the Administration’s promise to build a fairer and more inclusive immigration and asylum system for all,” the advocates wrote.
And the advocates also called on the Biden administration to move quickly with any humanitarian measures it does take to protect Haitians, in the hopes of avoiding bureaucratic snags that have made life even harder for the Haitian diaspora.
In particular, the advocates asked the administration to quickly issue a Federal Register notice to allow Haitians covered by TPS redesignations to work.
A delay in the last such notice left thousands of TPS beneficiaries unable to work and at risk of deportation for months.
“These delays, which can last more than the period for which TPS is granted, can make the TPS designations meaningless,” the advocates wrote.
The advocates also called on the administration to quickly process TPS applications, as more than 90,000 Haitians are still waiting for their papers from the last redesignation.
“We strongly urge the Biden administration to (1) extend and redesignate Haiti for TPS, (2) swiftly release the Federal Register Notice, (3) provide a minimum 180-day registration period for both current TPS holders and new beneficiaries under redesignation, (4) release all Haitians currently in immigration detention centers, and (5) halt deportation and expulsion flights to Haiti,” the advocacy groups added.
Source: The Hill