According to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano the U.S. may be home to as many as 200,000 undocumented Haitian immigrants. Starting today the Obama administration is allowing Haitians who have been in the U.S. without legal status before January 12 to apply for temporary protected status (TPS.) The status will allow Haitians to stay for 18 months and work while earthquake recovery continues.
Many groups urged the administration to declare TPS for Haitians, however there were just as many conservative immigration groups, as well as a Republican congressman, lobbying agaisnt protected status for Haitians. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said in an e-mail message to ABCNews. “Illegal immigrants from Haiti have no reason to fear deportation, but if they are deported, Haiti is in great need of relief workers, and many of them could be a big help to their fellow Haitians.”
Despite the devastation in Haiti, Napolitano’s sympathy doesn’t apply to everyone. There is still one group of Haitians who cannot apply for protected status: those individuals convicted of two misdemeanors or one felony are not eligible for TPS.
Haitians in the U.S. who are eligible to apply for TPS should go to www.uscis.gov or call USCIS toll-free at (800) 375-5283.