The announcement signals relief for a number of Haitian immigrants, whose legal status was in limbo following a 2017 announcement by then president Donald Trump that would have removed their TPS protection.

Haitian immigrants and supporters rally to reject DHS Decision to terminate TPS for Haitians, at the Manhattan borough in New York, US on November 21, 2017.
Haitian immigrants and supporters rally to reject DHS Decision to terminate TPS for Haitians, at the Manhattan borough in New York, US on November 21, 2017. (Reuters)

The United States has said it would allow tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants to reapply for temporary protected status to remain in the country for 18 months, citing the island nation's political crisis and rampant crime.

"After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

Mayorkas stressed that Haitians who arrive in the United States after May 21 will not be eligible and could be deported.

The announcement signals relief for a number of Haitians immigrants, whose legal status was in limbo following a 2017 announcement by then president Donald Trump that would have removed their TPS protection.

That move faced fierce legal backlash and is still making its way through the courts.

“Today, the Biden administration affirmed America’s commitment to its humanitarian values,“ Murad Awawdeh, executive director for the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement. “Haitian New Yorkers can now rest easier knowing that their families can stay together and in their communities as a vital part of our economic and social fabric."

READ MORE: Trump administration bars Haitians from US visas for low-skilled work 

Unfavourable conditions 

"Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic," Mayorkas said.

These conditions, the Homeland Security statement added, would "prevent nationals from returning safely" to Haiti and prompted the new 18-month designation.

The US government grants TPS to citizens of countries facing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions, effectively shielding them from deportation.

Haitians were first granted TPS under then-president Barack Obama following an 2010 earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people and destroyed much of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince.

Nearly 60,000 Haitians took refuge in the United States following the earthquake, and their protected status was extended several times, until Trump's 2017 announcement.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is facing a spike in Covid-19 cases on top of chronic poverty, crime including kidnappings by street gangs, and recurrent natural disasters.

It is also mired in a political crisis in which its president, Jovenel Moise, has been ruling by decree after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed and following disputes on when his own term ends. 

READ MORE: Protests in Haiti as anger grows over student's murder

Source: TRTWorld and agencies