Haitian immigrants living on Long Island and across the United States under temporary protected status will be able to stay here legally until Jan. 22 under a six-month extension of the humanitarian designation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The protection was set to expire July 22, and concerns in the Haitian community were growing.
The designation was initiated by President Barack Obama after the January 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation. The status grants temporary permission to live, study and work legally in the U.S. to immigrants whose homelands are in crisis.
“After careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government, I have decided to extend the designation . . . for a limited period of six months,” Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said in a statement Monday.
As of the end of 2016, 58,706 Haitians were under protected status, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. About 9,400 of them were living in the New York and New Jersey metro areas, according to an estimate by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit in San Francisco.
Losing such protected status would mean having to return to their country or face the specter of deportation.
From the community’s perspective, the extension simply postpones the pain, especially as Kelly emphasized it was for six months only, noting Haiti’s progress.
“This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States,” he said.
Immigrant advocates said six more months will not be enough for a population whose country faces multiple challenges, including damage from Hurricane Matthew in October, a recent cholera outbreak and widespread poverty.
“It’s cruel to send back 50,000 individuals back to Haiti . . . It’s going to create chaos in the country,” said Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), who is Haitian-American and advocated for an 18-month TPS extension. “We live to fight another day and we will continue to fight for a longer extension.”