Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has announced, after a period of deliberation, that he has decided to issue a six-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitian nationals in the United States.
The decision was made after a period of very public entreaties by any number of nongovernmental agencies, affected Haitians themselves, and the Haitian government.
Although time will tell, the decision is potentially good news for those like myself who have come to see what was intended as a humanitarian provision of law used and abused out of all recognition. Haitians, for instance, have been accorded TPS since an earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Other nationals, such as Salvadorans, have been recipients of routinely renewed TPS grants literally for decades, thus turning what was meant to be a statutory basis for providing temporary safe haven into the equivalent of a long-running amnesty program.
If, in limiting the extension only to six months (as opposed to the usual 12 or 18 months), Secretary Kelly is telegraphing that it is time for the recipients of the program to settle their affairs and ready themselves to depart, then he will have handled a tricky situation with subtlety and aplomb.
If, on the other hand, there is another extension after that, then he will instead have signaled that he is capable of being swayed by the weight of public appeals and media pressure.
You can be sure other nationalities and their respective governments will be watching carefully. I hope that the review of TPS for Haitians leads to a similar review as the deadline for each of the other TPS-eligible nationalities arrives, because for many of them, the time to end TPS is long overdue.
By holding Haitian TPS to six months, and no more, Secretary Kelly can begin to re-instill integrity into the whole program so that it can fulfill the purpose for which it was created: granting a temporary haven to aliens when humanitarian disasters strike their homeland, making it difficult to return until recovery has reached an adequate stage.