Haiti has historically been one of the poorest and most insecure countries in the Americas, a circumstance that has deepened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers Haiti a high-risk country for COVID transmission, the second highest category.
It is therefore doubly timely and meritorious that the Biden administration has decided to extend the designation for our Haitian brothers under the Temporary Protected Status, popularly known as TPS, for an additional 18 months if they meet the legal requirements.
“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security difficulties, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, paralyzing poverty and the lack of basic courses, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” justified the secretary of internal security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas. “After serious consideration, we determine that we must do what we can to support Haitian citizens in the United States until conditions improve in Haiti and they can safely return home.”
Haiti was originally designated under TPS protections on July 22, 2010 in the wake of extraordinary conditions in that country, specifically the aftermath of an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale that left more than 250,000 dead and more than 300,000 injured. His designation was extended in 2013 and 2015, and for 6 months in 2017.
Although then-President Donald Trump announced his decision to terminate the program in 2018, to take effect in 2019, his order was challenged in four separate lawsuits and remains on hold. Haitian immigrants who were kept bundled up for a temporary injunction will be allowed to apply to be included in the extension of the Biden administration.
It is important to recognize the difference in approach that the Biden administration is applying to immigration matters, but in the case of Haitians, as with other TPS beneficiaries, both in Central America and in Africa, there is need for them to be offered a permanent solution that opens a route to their current migratory limbo.
The House of Representatives has already passed a measure that would allow TPS recipients, as well as the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, to enter a legal path to eventually obtain a Green Card and even U.S. citizenship after three years. However, the initiative remains stagnant in the Senate.
Although they present themselves as the party of “family values”, the Republicans have shown no signs of offering that extended helping hand to any group of immigrants, despite the fact that a large proportion of these are the same essential workers who risk their lives to support that country standing.
If that resistance continues, the White House and the Democrats must use the means at their disposal, including the reconciliation process that obviates the need for Republican support, to pass a just, dignified, and generous immigration reform.
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