Amnesty for All Haitians in U.S., Save those Arriving in Last Four Months

By David North on May 19, 2011

Amnesty for all Haitians who arrived legally or illegally in the U.S. by January 12 of this year has been offered by the Department of Homeland Security.

Previously this form of amnesty, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), had been available to Haitians who were here on January 12, 2010, at the time of the earthquake in that country. Now the arrival date has been extended by one year. According to DHS about 48,000 had secured this status during the earlier amnesty, a number smaller than the government had expected.

The announcement came in a press release from DHS and in a teleconference featuring Alejandro Mayorkas, the Director of USCIS, at about the same time.

The press release describes the "you all come" announcement in the most restrictive terms.

Instead of saying all Haitians in the nation, legally and illegally, on Jan. 12 can legalize their status, the release says:

This re-designation of TPS only applies to those Haitians who have continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 12, 2011 . . . Haitians who attempt to enter the United States now or in the future will not be granted TPS . . .

"Only" means the entire illegal alien population from Haiti, except for those who arrived in the last four months. In terms of prior legalization programs, which required years of continuous presence, this is a very sweeping offer. Further, the announcement of the new amnesty did not come until the fourth paragraph of the press release.

This extension of an earlier TPS offer applies to everyone carrying a Haitian passport, whether they arrived as a visitor or in some other nonimmigrant category, or arrived illegally; a student on an F-1 visa, for instance, could apply for the TPS status, and thus acquire the right to stay in the country even after dropping out of school. Those with TPS can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that gives them the right to work in the U.S.

Without saying so explicitly, the new offer covers two populations: the newly arrived legal and illegal entrants who got here in the 12 months leading up for January 12, 2011, and all the earlier entrants who had failed to file for the previous amnesty, including many long-term illegals.

The announcement also said that for those who had filed for the previous amnesty, their "temporary" stay had been extended to January 22, 2013. Under this and previous administrations "temporary" legal stays have been postponed time and again. (Once, involving some 37 people from an African nation, a temporary legal status was actually allowed to expire.)

The announcement seemed to be a hurried one, and more details will be released, we were told on the teleconference, in the next few days. The press release, for example, says that new applications will be accepted on and after July 23, but does not appear to discuss the terminal date of the application period.

During the teleconference officials said the deportations to Haiti would continue "but only for people with serious criminal records" and a Coast Guard Admiral read a little speech about his agency's continuing policy to "interdict and rescue and repatriate" illegal aliens caught at sea, usually in unsafe vessels. Someone else made it clear that the policy announced today was separate from something that many in the Haitian community have been seeking – the instant admission of all Haitians with approved immigrant visas (usually in family categories) now waiting for an admission date.

Such a policy would place Haitians ahead of millions of people in similar situations from other nations around the world, and would stir up protests among other migrant populations. That policy would, I am sure, require congressional approval, while the TPS policy is within the current powers of the Secretary of DHS, Janet Napolitano.