Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is extending humanitarian protections for Haitians living in the U.S. who were affected by a 2010 earthquake that struck the island nation for an additional six months.
The 58,706 Haitians currently benefiting from Temporary Protected Status, which allows them to live and work in the country legally, will be allowed to stay in the U.S. Under the extension, current beneficiaries are required to re-register and apply for new work documents that will expire on Jan. 22, 2018.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly says there are indications that the situation in Haiti is improving, but ultimately determined that it was appropriate to extend the designation for six months. Haitians were given temporary protected status after a deadly earthquake in 2010 and it has since been extended. Kelly reportedly considered Haiti's infrastructure, the cholera outbreak, general health and sanitation conditions, food security and other factors linked to the 2010 natural disaster in his decision to extend TPS.
Senior Department of Homeland Security officials said on a conference call Monday that the Secretary has not yet determined if he will extend or terminate the designation when the extension ends, but Administration officials are encouraging Haitians to get their affairs in order over the next six months.
"Perhaps another extension will be warranted in six months, but perhaps it won't," a senior DHS official said on a conference call on Monday. "Six months at a time in this particular instance is what the Secretary felt was appropriate given the conditions on the ground in Haiti."
An Administration official noted, "it's not supposed to be permanent. It is temporary in nature. It can't go on in perpetuity."
In April, USA Today reported that the Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recommended the termination of the Haitian TPS due to improvements on the ground in Haiti. The Associated Press also reported that senior administration officials wanted information on the criminal histories of Haitian TPS recipients. Those reports sparked backlash from Congressional leaders, advocates, and the Haitian ambassador. The ambassador asked for an 18 month extension in a letter to the DHS Secretary.
Senior DHS officials said Monday the Secretary has asked for information like the criminal history and work status to get a clearer picture of populations that benefit from immigration programs in the U.S, but the determination made on Monday was based on criteria set forth by Congress.
"Secretary Kelly is taking a look at the TPS program with a fresh set of eyes, and really wants to ensure that all of our immigration programs are administered in a way that benefits that national interest," a senior administration official said. "With that frame of mind, we are evaluating precisely what Congress asked us to do with each of these TPS programs."
Nine countries currently have designated temporary protected status. Status in Sudan and South Sudan will expire in November 2017.