In a move supported by both Democrats and Republicans, the Obama administration Friday extended special protection to some 100,000 Haitians living illegally in the United States that keeps them from being deported.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would offer Haitian nationals, who were already here when Tuesday’s earthquake struck, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. That status, which would allow them to legally work, will not cover Haitians who flee their country following the devastating 7.0 quake that resulted in as many as 50,000 deaths and left its capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruins.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said it’s “tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere” but that “attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation.”
She also said returning illegal immigrants from Haiti would put their “personal safety" at risk.
On Wednesday, US immigration officials temporarily halted the removal of some 30,000 illegal Haitians awaiting deportation. France, Canada, and the Dominican Republic are taking similar steps to ease their immigrations rules in light of the disaster.
“Extending this mantle of protection to struggling Haiti is not only appropriate, but a just, compassionate, and concrete step the United States can take toward alleviating the human suffering of the Haitian people,” wrote Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a letter to the White House.
“This is the right thing to do. Haitian immigrants already in the U.S. will not only be able to make money to support themselves, but also to send remittances to their suffering families back in Haiti,” Senator Nelson said in a statement Friday.
Dan Stein, president of the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform, told USA Today that he supports the move. He did say, however, that the TPS status should be terminated once the crisis is over.
Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, wrote on the conservative National Review Online that once TSP is granted, it often becomes amnesty. "As far as I've been able to determine, not a single person who has ever been granted this 'temporary' status has later been deported."
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