In a move that affects thousands of lives across two nations, the Department of Homeland Security will extend and expand Temporary Protected Status for Haitians living in the United States.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Tuesday announced an 18-month extension of the protected status, which had been set to expire in July, allowing 48,000 Haitian nationals to remain in the U.S. until Jan. 22, 2013.
Thousands of other Haitians who fled to the United States in the 12 months following the devastating January 2010 earthquake will now be eligible for TPS, which had previously been granted only to Haitians who were already living in the U.S. at the time of the quake.
“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,” Napolitano said.
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The news was met with relief from Haitian community leaders in South Florida, immigrant rights activists and clergy.
“It’s really good news for the community. We were all holding our breath and waiting,” said Marleine Bastien, founding member and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, or Haitian Women of Miami. “Some of our clients were already getting very anxious because of their work permits.”
During a phone conference with Homeland Security officials on Tuesday, Bastien praised the Obama administration for the extension, then asked whether officials have considered a family reunification parole program for Haitians, “like there is for Cubans.” Such a program would speed up the immigration process for thousands of Haitians on the island whose visa petitions have already been approved.
“To allow those Haitians who have been waiting in the pipeline to come here, that would be a great addition to the news from today,” Bastien said.
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