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U.S. Extends Temporary Protected Status For Thousands Of Haitian Migrants

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Biden administration says it will extend deportation protections for tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants currently living here in the U.S. The Trump administration announced the end of this temporary protected status, or TPS, but legal challenges blocked that decision. The argument was that years of extensions were drawing out immigrants' stays in the U.S., long after crises abroad had come to an end. The program is meant for immigrants whose home countries are unable to guarantee the safe return of their citizens because of conflict or natural disasters. For more, we are joined by Guerline Jozef. She is the president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. Thank you so much for being with us.

GUERLINE JOZEF: Thank you so much, Rachel, for having us.

MARTIN: I imagine this is a big relief for many Haitian immigrants in this country. What kind of fears had they been living with?

JOZEF: Absolutely. A major relief for about 154,000 of my Haitian brothers and sisters who have been in the United States living for a very long time. And as we have come to understand, a lot of them have been in the forefront of COVID-19 really, really putting their lives at risk to keep our United States of America moving during the pandemic. And so it comes with a lot of relief to learn that these people, not only will they be able to continue to serve our communities here, but they will be protected. They don't have to worry for at least the next 18 months.

MARTIN: What is the situation in Haiti right now? I mean, what kind of conditions would they have returned to if they had been deported?

JOZEF: The situation is dire in Haiti. As we all know, for the past few years, it has been extreme violence, and there have been kidnapping and extreme turmoil, political turmoil, and a lot of insecurity on the ground right now. And I want people to understand that those people who are currently in Haiti, they do not want to leave; they want to be home. They want to be safe. But it is extremely difficult for them. So that is why it is critical that we provide protections for the Haitian diaspora.

MARTIN: Do you have any idea how long temporary protected status has been in place for Haitians? I mean, how many times has it been renewed?

JOZEF: The first time was under President Obama after the earthquake in 2010. So from there, they give the first 18 months, and then they renewed for a few times. But under President Trump, unfortunately, he terminated TPS for a lot of countries, including Haiti. So for the past few years now, it has been the only protection that the TPS order, specifically from Haiti, had was because, you know, of the Ramos and the Saget cases that are currently still going and giving them literally nine months at a time, which is absolutely painful. Imagine that you know you can only live your life nine months at a time and all the fear and the pain and the uncertainty that comes with that and really see how this affects the community, the children, the families - it is incredibly painful.

MARTIN: Let me ask, though - what does the permanent solution look like? I mean, you say that temporary protected status was put in place under the Obama administration after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, so potentially that means some Haitians have been living here in the U.S. under that status for more than a decade. Would those people even want to go home after having essentially built a life here?

JOZEF: Isn't that what they want, to go home? Can they go home, Rachel? Right? Is the idea that it is so unstable that right now they cannot go home? And when it comes to people who have been here for 10, 20 years - right? - who have made a life here in the United States, who have children, who have - you know, who have built homes, who have - who are business owners, who are doctors and nurses and taxi drivers, who literally this is their home. So for these people, there are a couple of things, such as H.R.6, which is the Dream and Promise Act, that will provide protection, permanent residency, for folks who have made America their home and have nowhere else to go.

MARTIN: Guerline Jozef is the president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. Thank you so much for talking with us.

JOZEF: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.