MIIAMI - Pressure has been mounting as Haitians living in the U.S. awaited a decision by the Trump Administration to extend the Temporary Protected Status program. But they learned on Monday that the program has been extended for six months, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, confirmed.
"Following a meeting last week with Haitian Senators Wilfrid Gélin and Wanique Pierre, I decided to wage a Twitter storm in a last-ditch effort to save the nation's Temporary Protected Status designation," Wilson said in a statement. "We invited the Haitian diaspora and international community to participate in the storm, during which we tagged the Department of Homeland Security and urged followers to call the agency to demand that the program be saved. This morning, DHS called my office to inform us that Haiti’s TPS designation has received a six-month extension."
The Department of Homeland Security issued a formal notice Monday afternoon on the matter.
The program, which grants work permits and legal residency, was in limbo unless it was renewed by the Trump administration.
The future of some 50,000 Haitians depended on the decision, as the program was set to expire on July 22.
The decision to extend the program was in the hands of John F. Kelly, Trump's secretary of Homeland Security. Earlier this year, he requested an analysis of the criminal history of Haitians living in the U.S.
"After careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government, I have decided to extend the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status for a limited period of six months," Kelly said in a statement. "Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010, and I'm proud of the role the United States has played during this time in helping our Haitian friends.
"The Haitian economy continues to recover and grow, and 96 percent of people displaced by the earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those camps. Even more encouraging is that over 98 percent of these camps have closed.
"Also indicative of Haiti's success in recovering from the earthquake seven years ago is the Haitian government's stated plans to rebuild the Haitian president's residence at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince and the withdrawal of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti."
Former President Barack Obama allowed the TPS to protect Haitians in the U.S. after the 2010 earthquake. Immigration authorities have extended the program three times since.
"If I go to Haiti, many schools, many properties have been destroyed," Marleine Bastien's father told Local 10 News.
Bastien's father is a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He has been in the U.S. for 18 years and has two U.S.-born children in school.
"I hope they help my parents and they keep me here," Bastien said before hearing that the TPS program had been extended.
The TPS extension for Haitians is one of the rare issues that Florida lawmakers across party lines have urged the president and Department of Homeland Security to act upon, for humanitarian reasons and economic reasons, in a state where immigrants are a critical part of the workforce.
"While this news will give the tens of thousands of Haitians anxiously waiting to learn the program's fate some measure of relief, this is in fact a cup half full situation," Wilson said. "The reality is that in six months Haiti will still be in no position to absorb and aid 58,000 unemployed people.
"It will still be recovering from the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent cholera epidemic imported by U.N. peacekeepers that has killed 10,000. And it will still be struggling to rebuild the extensive damage its infrastructure incurred after Hurricane Matthew struck the island-nation last October."
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) agreed that Haiti is in no condition to receive the large amount of citizens back in the country.
"I was in Haiti a few months ago," the congresswoman said. "It is in no shape to receive thousands of Haitians back to their homeland."
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