Haitian nationals who were in the United States prior to Haiti's deadly earthquake six months ago will have more time to apply for Temporary Protected Status after the government announced an extension for its filing deadline this week. The original filing period was set to expire next Wednesday, but has now been pushed back to January 18, 2011.
Temporary Protected Status offers these Haitian nationals the legal right to stay and work in the country for 18 months. It was announced days after the disaster as a compromise of sorts to stem an influx of refugees from the country. The hope was that by offering temporary legal status to Haitians, people here could continue to work and bolster the Haitian economy by sending remittances to family there.
But when DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the offer of TPS on January 15, she also warned that those who arrived in the U.S. after the Jan. 12 quake would be deported. And dozens of refugees did end up getting caught up in immigration detention. MSNBC highlighted some of the myriad struggles facing Haitians who are trying to survive in New York six months after the earthquake. Homelessness, strained family relations, and little knowledge of or ability to access health care, are taking their toll on Haitians whose home country still has a long road ahead to full recovery.
As of April, the Department of Homeland Security was reporting that they'd received fewer applications for TPS than they'd expected. Only 10,000 people had applied, even though there are an estimated 200,000 undocumented Haitian nationals living in the country. Michelle Chen explored some of the reasons for the few applications: language barriers, a not insignificant filing fee of $500, uncertainty about getting tangled up in the immigration system, and a well-founded fear that registering with the government could lead to deportation down the line. Also, people with criminal convictions are ineligible for TPS.
The new extension on TPS will only be granted to Haitians who have stayed in the country continuously since the earthquake. People interested in filing for TPS can call 1-800-870-3676 or visit uscis.gov for more information.
Photo: Getty Images/Michael Nagle