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DHS Extends TPS for Haitians for Six Months

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Federal officials announced plans Monday to extend Temporary Protected Status for the more than 58,000 Haitian nationals that have come to the U.S. in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that hit the island nation in 2010.

The announcement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security still provides little solace for those Haitians living in Florida under the TPS immigration policy.

Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly said in a statement that this six-month extension is intended to give Haitian TPS recipients time to collect travel documents and to make arrangements for their ultimate departure from the U.S.

Kelly said this program is ending because of the progress in rebuilding Haiti after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Jan. 2010.  “After careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government, I have decided to extend the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status for a limited period of six-months,” said Sec. Kelly. “Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010, and I’m proud of the role the United States has played during this time in helping our Haitian friends. The Haitian economy continues to recover and grow, and 96 percent of people displaced by the earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those camps. Even more encouraging is that over 98 percent of these camps have closed.”

The current protected status for Haitians had been set to expire July 22.  Haitian and immigration advocates along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers had been lobbying for an 18 to 24 month extension.  President of the Haitian American Democratic Club of Lee County, Beatrice Jacquet said Haiti is simply not in a position to take back the more than 58,000 Haitians living in the U.S. under TPS.

“In addition to the earthquake, they also got hit with Hurricane Matthew last year in October,” said Jacquet.  “That added more devastation to the country in addition to cholera that hit Haiti. The 500 people currently living underneath tents in Haiti are depending on the 58,000 people that are here on TPS to send them money to be able to eat and stay alive.”

Jacquet said about 10,000 Haitians under TPS are living and working in Southwest Florida, and that sending them back to Haiti would adversely affect the economy.

“A lot of those people hold blue collar jobs.  A lot of those people work in nursing homes.  A lot of them are CNAs,” said Jacquet.  “It will be a devastating effect to our economy here in the U.S. as well.  It’s just not a good outcome either way, for the U.S. and for the Haitian families back home.”

Aside from future economic impacts, Jacquet said the situation is having an immediate effect on Haitian families in Southwest Florida.  “Kids are being sent home from schools because those kids are having nightmares.  Those kids are having anxiety because they’re afraid that their parents are going to be deported and these are American kids,” said Jacquet.  “Once you deport their parents back, what happens to these kids?”

Ahead of Monday’s announcement, the Associated Press published leaked internal e-mails from a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official instructing staff to seek out reports of criminal activity by those with TPS and to find out of TPS recipients were receiving public benefits (for which they are not eligible).

Jacquet said this was an effort to create a false narrative about Haitian refugees in the U.S.  “If they are a criminal they will not be eligible to get on TPS and those people that are on TPS cannot apply for government assistance anyway because they don’t have a green card,” said Jacquet.  “So all of that was a myth in trying to find a way not to even renew it or even consider renewing the TPS for Haitian nationals.”

According to Jacquet, the Haitian American Democratic Club of Lee County plans to hold additional immigration workshops in the coming months to help evaluate Haitians currently under TPS to try to find alternative immigration programs that could allow them to stay in the U.S. beyond the expiration of their protected status.

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