Department of Homeland Security extends protections for Haitian refugees to 2024

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Humanitarian groups that advocate for immigrants' rights praised the Biden administration's decision.

The Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that it was extending the Temporary Protected Status for Haiti an additional 18 months, until Aug. 3, 2024. That status was originally set to expire on Feb. 3, 2023.

The department also said that Haitian nationals living in the United States as of Nov. 6 can apply for protected status.

Temporary Protected Status, a designation Congress enacted in 1990, allows migrants from countries with conditions that have been deemed unsafe to legally live and work within the U.S. Since the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, the country has experienced a significant rise in violence as gangs fight for control of territory.

"We are providing much-needed humanitarian relief to Haitian nationals already present in the United States," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "The conditions in Haiti, including socioeconomic challenges, political instability, and gang violence and crime – aggravated by environmental disaster – compelled the humanitarian relief we are providing today."

The decision followed a Nov. 22 letter sent to Mayorkas, President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting an extension of temporary status, citing gang violence there. The groups asserted that a continuation would allow those affected to avoid deportation while living and working in the U.S. to provide for the safety and security of their families. The letter was signed by 422 human rights groups and advocates.

Immigration advocacy groups praised the Biden administration’s decision.

"We welcome and rejoice this much-needed announcement from the Biden administration," the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a non-profit group that advocates for immigration policies that benefit Haitians, Black migrants and LGBTQIA+ people, said in a tweet.

The UNHCR, the refugee agency of the United Nations, welcomed the decision, writing, "This action provides safety for people who arrived in the U.S. seeking protection from the humanitarian and security crisis in Haiti."

"The TPS redesignation for Haiti is long overdue and worth celebrating,” Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America's Voice, said in a statement. “Thanks to today's news, U.S. policy will better align with our proudest values and the short-and-long term interests of the United States in the region."

HIAS is a Jewish humanitarian organization that advocates for refugees’ rights by providing services resettlement, legal aid. The organization praised the Biden administration’s decision.

"Thank you @POTUS for granting and extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for #Haiti, which will protect Haitians in the U.S. from deportation," the organization tweeted on Tuesday.

The Biden administration previously extended temporary status for other countries, including Ukraine, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Myanmar and Cameroon. As in Haiti, the legal protections were extended for refugees from each of those countries due to ongoing violence, often stemming from government instability.

Biden's actions to expand the availability of help for refugees run counter to actions from former President Donald Trump, who enacted policies to turn away refugees and limit the rights of refugees. Trump’s administration sought to phase out protections for migrants, even those who had lived in the U.S. for decades, arguing that violence and instability was no longer a threat in countries like Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan, and Nicaragua.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.