Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a special status given by the United States to foreign nationals from specific countries where there has been some sort of recent turmoil or trauma, such as war or an earthquake. The status requires that the individual already be in the United States, and the individual must apply for consideration under TPS. Currently, TPS is given to citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, and Sudan. As the name implies, the status is temporary and does not automatically qualify an individual for permanent residency (green card) or citizenship.
This week, following the horrific 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti, a number of politicians and journalists began calling on the United States to give TPS to the one to two million (by most estimates) Haitian nationals that live in the country. Several petitions, including one by breakthrough, were circulated, and 83 Congresspersons signed a letter to President Obama requesting TPS for Haitians.
On Friday, January 15, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano granted TPS to all Haitians currently living in the US for eighteen months.
Prior to the announcement, blogger The Latin Americanist noted:
Haitian expats and immigration advocates have long clamored for TPS for Haitians, especially in light of numerous hurricanes and major storms over the past decade. Though their pleas had fallen on deaf ears by both the Bush and Obama administrations, support for Haitian TPS has gained backing from key lawmakers
Also prior to the decision, American blogger and immigration scholar Koulflo Memo called TPS a “no-brainer”:
The right wing Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has announced opposition to granting TPS for Haiti. The reason they give is that they assume Haitians won’t leave after TPS is lifted. They also say the Haiti situation does not meet TPS criteria. FAIR’s opposition is dishonest and wrongheaded. It is also racist.
I hope President Obama is not over-calculating his chances for comprehensive immigration reform later this year by appeasing the FAIR constituency on this crucial humanitarian issue. Such a non-response would indeed forsake Haiti in its time of need.
American blogger Deep Thought commended the Obama administration's decision, writing:
President Obama showed real leadership in moving quickly to help the people of Haiti. He and Secretary Napolitano also showed compassion in suspending deportations to Haiti for eighteen months by granting TPS (temporary protected status) to Haitians currently in the United States; dumping a bunch more people into the current scene of devastation would be unhelpful at best and disastrous at worst. Yes, they are getting some heat from Nativist groups but the real test of leadership is the ability to make tough decisions because they are right.
Blogger and adoptive parent all buttoned up discusses thanking her representative for pushing for TPS and also requests help for Haiti's many orphans, writing:
This issue is getting a lot of press at the moment. I hope that it makes a difference, but you and I both know that people grow tired of seeing the same sadness over and over again. There were more than 200,000 orphans living in Port-au-Prince before all of this began, and however you feel about these issues– and they are complicated– none of this intervention is meant to undermine the integrity of the Haitian people or their desire to look after their own children. It is just not possible for them to do so. This is a humanitarian issue.
Although Haitians in the United States are now protected for the next 18 months at minimum and able to work, the people of Haiti still need help. Here are a few organizations providing relief in Haiti, and here are a few ways you can donate hotel or frequent flier miles.
Please visit the Global Voices Haiti Earthquake page for more coverage of the event.