Today was the last day for Haitians to re-register for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and continue living temporarily in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has regularly extended TPS for Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake, but the Secretary of Homeland Security said in a statement this past May that conditions in Haiti have improved and TPS will expire in January.
That means Haitians protected by TPS will have to prepare to return to Haiti by January 22, 2018.
The Irish International Immigrant Center (IIC) in Boston has helped over 150 applicants re-register for Monday’s deadline within the past few weeks. Many Haitians protected by TPS have been temporarily living and working in the U.S. since at least 2011, according to Tony Marino, the director of legal services at IIC.
“There’s a lot of apprehension. People are scared,” Marino said. “Many of them have U.S. citizen children, and the situation in Haiti has not really improved markedly.”
Over 50,000 Haitians displaced by the earthquake live in the U.S. under TPS. Massachusetts, has third-largest Haitian population in the U.S. with more than 40,000, and over 4,000 of them are protected by the temporary status. After January, this Haitian population will become undocumented.
Many Haitians will be forced to choose between their families who live in the U.S. or remain within the law and return to their home country. Marino disputed the contention that Haiti’s conditions have improved.
"I think the takeaway is that Haiti is just not ready to reabsorb 50,000 people. And the people being protected are just not ready to return to a country that can't provide for them," Marino explained.
Following the earthquake in Haiti, the country suffered from a large outbreak of cholera and Zika virus. The Caribbean nation is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with a large shortage of food.
Originally, TPS was set to expire on July 22. Attorney General Maura Healey and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in May urging him to grant the extension, and he did. Now, Marino has emphasized on the need for another extension on the program.
“In the absence of the comprehensive immigration reform, which is what we really need to protect people, an extension of a program that is protecting people whose country has been devastated is absolutely needed,” Marino said.
Some Haitians residing in Boston were reluctant to re-register for the program because of the uncertain future, he added. But Marino said that it’s important that applicants sent in their paperwork by Monday’s deadline because there may be a chance that TPS will be renewed again after January.
Correction: This piece has been updated. An earlier version of this piece referred to TPS as "temporary protection status." TPS stands for "temporary protected status."