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Monday, June 14, 2021

Afro Connect: Why Haiti Should Be Granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

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Allen Orr
Allen Orr
Allen Orr is the founder of Orr Immigration Law Firm PC, a minority-owned law firm based in Washington, DC and focusing on US corporate compliance. Mr. Orr is the recipient of the 2009 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award for contributions made in the immigration law field and specifically for his work with the NMD. He is listed in The International Who’s who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers and The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers. He is President-Elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Mr. Orr is a member of the Executive Committee where he is a national spokesperson for AILA. Mr. Orr received a BA in Philosophy from Morehouse and a JD from Howard School of Law. He is an active member of the DC, Virginia and National Bar Associations. Mr. Orr has appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), FOX News, and Deutsche Welle (DW), and is a frequent national and international speaker on US immigration and policy.

Temporary Protected Status was created by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990. The purpose of TPS is to provide immigration status in the US for nationals from designated countries suffering from armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. 

These conditions are defined by the law as:

  • An ongoing armed conflict, such as a civil war, that poses a serious threat to the personal safety of returning nationals;
  • An environmental disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane, or epidemic, that results in a substantial but temporary disruption of living conditions, and because of which the foreign state is temporarily unable to adequately handle the return of its nationals; or
  • Extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state that prevent its nationals from returning to the state in safety (unless the U.S. government finds that permitting these nationals to remain temporarily in the United States is contrary to the U.S. national interest).

The Secretary of Homeland Security has discretion to decide whether a country merits TPS designation, in consultation with other government agencies. TPS status can be provided for 6, 12, or 18 months at a time, and can be renewed if the conditions that led to the designation persist in the foreign national’s home country. TPS is not subject to judicial review.

In October 2020, there were more than 411,000 TPS holders living in the US, of which over 55,000 were Haitians. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the island of Haiti in January of 2010 and led to the Obama administration’s decision to grant these nationals TPS. TPS will expire for Haitian TPS beneficiaries in October 2021, according to a Federal Register notice published by the Trump administration in December 2020.

Since the beginning of the Biden Administration, there has been a call to re-designate Haiti for TPS.  In October 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden visited Little Haiti in Miami, Florida, seeking the support of the Haitian American community. He promised to act on the TPS program, a pressing issue for many Haitians and Haitian-Americans. Haiti has battled political turmoil and a spike in violent crime over the past year as conditions move toward a potential civil war after several failed coups.

According to the Haitian Bridge, a group of Haitians and Haitian-Americans working to assist, empower and amplify the voices of Haitian and other Black immigrants, revealed a flight to Haiti on May 7 was the 33rd expulsion since Feb. 1.

Between 1700 and 2000 Haitians have been expelled in total, mostly families with children, despite USCIS concerns that they will face violence if they return.

If Haitian nationals are redesignated for TPS, it will protect current beneficiaries plus any Haitian nationals arriving in the United States since last year’s designation. When an immigration judge finds that a person in removal proceedings is eligible for TPS, the judge will close the case and direct him or her to apply for TPS.

Re-designation would stop the deportations. 

More than 69 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to redesignate Haiti for TPS. The Biden administration has avoided TPS designations for Haiti, yet issued designations for Venezuela, Myanmar and Syria.

The lack of swift action on Haiti TPS stands as another example of anti-Black racism in US immigration policy.

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