Haitians who fled the earthquake-ravaged nation last year only to find themselves unable to stay legally in the United States now will be eligible to apply for temporary protected status, allowing them to live and work legally for a fixed amount of time, US immigration officials will announce today.
The news marks a major shift for federal officials, who had resisted granting the thousands of Haitians who fled the Caribbean nation after the massive disaster for fear that more would risk their lives to follow. The announcement comes days after Haiti inaugurated a new president.
But as a result, the estimated 10,000 people who fled on visitor visas, which they overstayed because they had no jobs or homes to return to, ended up crowded into relatives homes or homeless and living in motels, as the Globe reported in January.
In addition, US officials announced that they will extend the period of temporary protected status for existing recipients of TPS until Jan. 22, 2013, or another 18 months. It was set to expire in July.
Temporary protected status is a discretionary tool that the Homeland Security agency uses in cases of emergencies to allow people from a nation torn by war or disaster to receive temporary safe haven in the United States until the US government deems that it is safe for them to return.
People must apply and pay fees in exchange for permission to live and work in the United States.
Haitis earthquake Jan. 12, 2010 destroyed most government buildings and killed an estimated more than 230,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless and a cholera outbreak has killed more than 4,800 people.