US puts removal of undocumented Haitians on hold
Haitian nationals already present in the US when the devastating earthquake hit on Jan. 12 have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and will be allowed to continue living and working in the US for the next 18 months regardless of their immigration status, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Jan. 15. Napolitano said that "[p]roviding a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this Administration's continuing efforts to support Haiti's recovery."
Groups such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) had called on the administration to grant Haitians TPS and halt any deportation or removal proceedings. The conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) criticized the TPS as likely to "touch off a mass exodus" of Haitians and chastised the administration for having "no interdiction plan in place [nor any] off-shore holding facility to detain and repatriate large numbers of people heading for the U.." TPS may be granted to foreign nationals when conditions in their country of origin temporarily prevent them from returning safely, such as during a civil war or natural disaster.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused at least 50,000 deaths and massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. The most devastated city is the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has said that up to 50% of buildings have been destroyed or damaged, including the country's presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters, and the country's main prison. The Pentagon has broached housing some of those displaced by the disaster at Guantánamo Bay Naval base. (Jurist, Jan. 16)