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Homeland Security extends temporary protected status for Haitians

2 weeks ago 13

The Biden administration said Friday it will dramatically expand the number of Haitians eligible for temporary protection from deportation, days after a U.N.-backed police contingent landed in the Caribbean nation to combat gang violence.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted protection to eligible Haitians already in the United States since a powerful 2010 earthquake killed thousands of people. Biden administration officials have gradually added more recent arrivals as security crises in Haiti have worsened.

About 214,000 Haitians currently have those protections, and they will be allowed to apply for an 18-month extension, officials said Friday.

Another 309,000 newer arrivals are expected to become eligible to apply starting Monday, as long as they began living in the United States on or before June 3, pass background checks and meet other criteria, according to DHS and the Federal Register.

In all, more than half a million Haitians, including many immigrants without legal status in the United States, will be shielded from deportation through Feb. 3, 2026, federal records show, part of a Biden administration expansion of the use of its executive powers to aid immigrants.

Congress created the program known as “temporary protected status” in 1990 to ensure that people whose countries are engulfed in conflict, environmental disasters or other crises could temporarily live and work legally in the United States without fear of being sent home.

President Biden has used that authority more broadly than any other president. Sixteen countries and more than 860,000 immigrants are shielded from deportation under the program, according to a Congressional Research Service report published last month.

On Friday, DHS said Haitians required protections because of “extraordinary and temporary conditions” in that country, including widespread violence and damage from earthquakes and tropical storms.

Haiti has descended into horrific gang violence and mayhem since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Gangs control more than 80 percent of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and have killed and attacked people with impunity. They have also impeded the flow of humanitarian aid to the nation of 12 million people, one of the poorest in the world.

The Haitian Bridge Alliance, an immigrant advocacy group, praised the expansion of temporary protections Friday, saying it “provides much-needed relief and stability to thousands of Haitians who have sought refuge in the United States.” But they and others urged officials to halt deportations.

The protections came too late for Haitian nationals such as Edline, the wife of a retired U.S. Marine in New York, who is being identified only by her first name to protect her safety. She was deported this year after seeking protection at a port of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Immigration officials said a judge found that she had no legal basis to remain in the United States.

“She fled Haiti after fearing she would be killed,” her lawyer, William Menard, said in a statement Friday. “Edline wants only to live in safety with her husband and young children,” who are U.S. citizens.

DHS declined to halt deportations to Haiti and warned in an email Friday that anyone who attempts to enter the country illegally could be deported.

Haitians have been attempting to enter the United States by land and sea in recent years, and numbers spiked early under the Biden administration. Earlier this month, the U.S. Coast Guard said it returned 305 migrants to the Bahamas and Haiti after intercepting them at sea.

Fewer Haitians have attempted those risky journeys since Biden created a program last year that allows people from Haiti, Venezuela and other countries to apply to enter legally as long as they have a U.S. sponsor.

“Haitians who were not residing in the United States on or before June 3, 2024, are not eligible for such protection, and will face removal to Haiti if they do not establish a legal basis to stay,” DHS said in an email announcing the expansion.

Officials added: “U.S. policy is to return noncitizens who do not establish a legal basis to remain in the United States.”

To be eligible for temporary protection and a work permit, immigrants must pay a fee, pass security background checks and meet other criteria, particularly residency.

The protection will last about 18 months, from Aug. 4 to Feb. 3, 2026, and could be renewed if dangerous conditions persist in Haiti.

The Trump administration attempted to terminate temporary protections for Haitians and other countries in 2019, but the programs continued after courts intervened.

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