U.S. extends TPS deadline for Haitians

Brooklyn Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene says the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has made the decision to exercise its discretion to allow for late Temporary Protected Status (TPS) application filings for Haitians living illegally in the U.S. because of the recent passage of Hurricane Sandy.

“Consideration will be made for applicants affected by the storm who were unable to file before the Nov. 30 deadline,” said Eugene, the first ever Haitian to be elected to New York City Council, who represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn.

Eugene said he had written to President Barack Obama urging him to further extend the deadline for Haitians seeking renewal of TPS beyond the current deadline.

“In light of the devastation Hurricane Sandy has caused, New Yorkers are still struggling to rebuild and recover. In the immediate aftermath, many communities were heavily impacted by power outages across the City; subways were closed, and transportation was limited for many,” he said.

“Due to these massive disruptions, normal activities, including the re-application of thousands of TPS holders, were put on hiatus,” he added.

“New York City, which is home to many Haitians, was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. As a result, legal service providers, elected officials, and city agencies throughout the region have been deeply affected and have been unable to provide the necessary and vital services for TPS renewals as anticipated,” Eugene continued.

Last week, another New York City Councilman, Jumaane Williams, joined local elected officials and community leaders in publicly urging Obama to extend the deadline for re-registration of TPS for tens of thousands of Haitians living illegally in the U.S.

Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, issued the appeal “on the grounds of the challenges posed by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy both in New York City as well as in Haiti, as well as the logistical difficulties in meeting the high demand for legal assistance to re-register.”

“President Obama has been a good friend to Haitians in their long road to building a better Ayiti (creole for Haiti) from the damage caused by the devastating earthquake of 2010,” Williams told reporters here.

“Now, this community, one of the largest Haitian populations outside Haiti and Florida, must call on him again to take swift action in order to ensure those that have been unable to re-register for their TPS are able to continue relying on America’s support.”

TPS was originally designated for Haiti in January 2010 in response to the Jan. 12, 2010 catastrophic earthquake that devastated that country.

TPS was re-designated in May 2011, effective July 2011. The current 18-month extension of TPS for Haiti will remain in effect through Jul. 22, 2014, the USCIS said.

It also said that if Haitian have applied for and are awaiting a new Haiti TPS-related Employment Authorization Document (EAD), their current EAD, set to expire on Jan. 22, 2013, “has been automatically extended for six months.”

The USCIS said the six-month auto-extension of EADs runs through July 22, 2013.

U.S. Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano said currently about 48,000 Haitian nationals with TPS reside in the United States.

Napolitano had said that 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, was part of the Obama administration’s “continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery.”

Williams was joined in his urgent call for action by colleagues from the local, state and federal level, including Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.

Clarke had joined with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in spearheading a letter by New York City’s Congressional delegation to President Obama requesting an extension of the re-registration deadline for Haitian TPS.

“Today, I stand with my colleagues to urge President Obama and Secretary Napolitano to consider our request on behalf of the millions of Haitians who are current beneficiaries [of TPS] and the sole providers for their families in Haiti,” said Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“It is imperative that we extend this deadline to ensure these eligible applicants can continue to receive their benefits as they aid in the rebuilding of their homeland,” she added.