Obama administration grants TPS to Haitians
BY SERGIO BUSTOS
The Obama administration announced Friday that it would grant tens of thousands Haitian nationals Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, an immigration benefit sought for years by Haitian activists, immigrant advocates and South Florida lawmakers.
The move comes following intense pressure on the administration this week to approve Haiti for TPS in the aftermath of the country's devastating earthquake.
TPS is granted to selected immigrants who cannot safely return to their homelands because of natural disasters, armed conflicts or other emergencies. Those eligible are allowed to remain here, obtain work permits and temporary stays for specific periods -- a status often renewed indefinitely.
Homeland Security Department Janet Napolitano made the announcement from Washington during a conference call on Friday with reporters.
"As part of the Department's ongoing efforts to assist Haiti following Tuesday's devastating earthquake, I am announcing the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010.
"This is a disaster of historic proportions and this designation will allow eligible Haitian nationals in the United States to continue living and working in our country for the next 18 months,'' Napolitano said.
"Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration's continuing efforts to support Haiti's recovery.
"At this moment of tragedy in Haiti, it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere. But attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation.
She said only those Haitians in the United States as of January 12, 2010 are eligible for TPS. Those who travel here after Jan. 12, 2010, will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated.
This week, Haitian-American activists, immigrant advocates and South Florida lawmakers from both sides of the aisle intensely lobbyed the Obama administration to keep undocumented Haitian immigrants from being deported to an island nation whose economy is in ruins following Tuesday's horrific earthquake.
South Florida's three Cuban-American Republican members of Congress -- Reps. Lincoln and his brother Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, sent a joint letter to Obama requesting TPS for Haitian nationals along with immediate humanitarian aid for Haiti.
The Department of Homeland Security has currently designated citizens
from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan eligible for TPS.