About 48,000 Haitians living in the U.S. since last year’s devastating quake can now rest a little easier after the U.S. government announced Tuesday there will be an 18-month extension of their temporary protected status.
Originally due to expire in July of this year, the TPS extension allows Haitians to legally stay in the U.S. until Jan. 22, 2013, without the threat of deportation.
"Providing 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," Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced Tuesday.
In addition, Haitians who arrived in the U.S. between Jan. 12, 2010 and Jan. 12, 2011 are also eligible for the extension. Previously only Haitians who were already living in the U.S. at the time of the 2010 quake were granted TPS. Haitians who arrived Jan. 13, 2011 are not eligible for temporary status.
The move comes as welcome news to many advocates who protested against the U.S. for forcing thousands of Haitians to return to their homeland, which is still struggling to recover from the disaster that claimed 300,000 lives and left millions homeless.
Newly sworn-in President Michel Martelly spoke in favor of a TPS extension during his U.S. visit not too long ago and Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson hand-delivered a letter to President Obama last week signed by 50 lawmakers urging him to push for an extension.
The U.S. policy to deport Haitians who have been convicted of crimes remains in effect.
(Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS AP)