VOA spoke to Department of Homeland Security Spokesperson Katie Waldman about Temporary Protected Status and the latest developments related to TPS. Below is an edited transcript.
How will DHS address TPS recipients who overstay the deadline of July 22, 2019?
The Administration’s immigration enforcement priorities have been clearly articulated. DHS will continue to focus on criminal aliens, those with final orders of removal, and those who otherwise pose a threat to public safety and/or national security. However, DHS will not exempt entire categories or classes of people from potential immigration enforcement actions.
How does DHS plan to enforce its TPS deadline come July 22, 2019? Do you envision massive deportation?
The 18-month delayed effective date will allow for an orderly transition and provide time for TPS beneficiaries to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible, or, if necessary, arrange for their departure. It will also provide time for Haiti to prepare for the return and reintegration of its citizens. USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) will work with the State Department and the government of Haiti to help educate relevant stakeholders in-country and ensure an orderly process.
Is there any possibility that the deadline will change if conditions in Haiti worsen – if, for instance, there’s civil unrest or yet another natural disaster?
We don’t comment on hypotheticals -- Haiti was originally designated for TPS in 2010 after the earthquake there. Haiti was subsequently redesignated for TPS in 2011, again based on conditions related to and following the 2010 earthquake. Temporary Protected Status was not intended to provide a long-term solution or permanent legal status for foreign nationals in the United States. Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years.
How much flexibility will DHS have in addressing individuals with a pending visa application? If it will take several years for an immigrant visa to become available, will DHS grant that applicant additional time or will it open removal proceedings?
Approximately 59,000 persons are beneficiaries under TPS for Haiti. Of those, more than 16,000 have either filed for or been granted lawful permanent resident status since being granted TPS. Upon termination of TPS, individuals will revert to the immigration status they had before being granted TPS, unless that prior status has since expired. Those who have no other status may apply or be petitioned for any other immigration benefits for which they may be independently eligible. USCIS will consider these on a case by case basis.
A State Department spokesperson answered the following question.
If a mixed-status family returns to Haiti with an American-born child, and the child faces educational or health problems, to what extent might the U.S. State Department help with a resolution for that American citizen?
Our embassies and consulates overseas stand ready to provide appropriate consular services for U.S. citizens. We encourage parents to apply for a passport for their U.S.-born children, prior to departing the United States, to document citizenship and identity.