Haitian advocates appeal for immediate end to deportations and expansion of TPS
Members of Congress, Haitian-Americans and immigrant advocacy groups are calling on the Biden administration to expand Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status designation after a major earthquake claimed at least 1,300 lives in Haiti’s southwestern peninsula on Saturday.
And they argue the Biden administration must stop deporting Haitian immigrants from the U.S. to Haiti, with the most recent deportation flight taking place two days before Saturday’s earthquake.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who announced an upcoming Miami visit prior to Saturday’s earthquake to address the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and pro-democracy protests in Cuba, has the power to extend Haiti’s TPS designation. TPS is a temporary program administered by the Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the State Department that allows recipients to live and work in the U.S. for a period of time without the threat of deportation.
Mayorkas expanded Haiti’s designation on August 3, in response to Moïse’s assassination, to include Haitians who were residing in the U.S. as of July 29. The new designation keeps TPS for Haitians, which was first introduced in 2010, in place until February 3, 2023.
Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson said another expansion is almost a certainty, and a group of Haitian-American congressional staffers is working on additional policy responses to the earthquake.
“I’m sure we won’t find any resistance at all because it’s almost impossible not to extend it,” Wilson said. “With the ones who already have TPS, we’ve extended the deadline for many years. With Haiti right now, we’re waiting.”
A DHS spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Because DHS expanded TPS so recently, an additional expansion to cover the earthquake likely won’t result in many more Haitians becoming eligible for TPS. About 57,000 Haitians were eligible prior to Mayorkas’ expansion announcement that increased the number of eligible Haitians to about 160,000, according to the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
Tessa Petit, a Haitian-American who works as the Florida Immigrant Coalition’s director of operations in Miami, said extending the TPS eligibility deadline is the bare minimum the administration should do.
“Between July 29 and August 14 when we had the earthquakes there are Haitians who have crossed the border and are applying for asylum,” Petit said, referring to the U.S. southern border. “Now more than ever it will be impossible to return them to a country that will not be able to give them support and is unsafe for them.”
The National TPS Alliance also called for a new designation date on Saturday.
“In response to today’s catastrophe, we are urgently calling Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden administration to once again extend the new TPS designation date for Haiti to benefit more Haitians currently residing in the United States,” said Paul-Andre Mondesir, the National TPS Alliance’s lead organizer.
OTHER EARTHQUAKE OPTIONS
Ira Kurzban, an immigration attorney who works extensively on TPS litigation for Haitians, said the administration is likely to keep extending Haiti’s TPS designation date until conditions on the ground begin to improve. DHS first announced TPS for Haitians three days after the 2010 earthquake and later expanded the eligibility date until a year after the disaster to account for Haitians who came to the United States seeking medical treatment or housing.
“I think it’s unconscionable for Biden to send people back now,” Kurzban said.
He also said the administration could use “humanitarian parole” to admit Haitians with medical conditions or injuries that cannot be treated in Haiti. Individuals can apply for humanitarian parole, usually with the help of a lawyer, to the director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. But he said historical events have led previous presidents to grant parole to large groups.
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