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US to Expand Haitian Eligibility for Deportation Relief Program

FILE - Migrants from Central America, Haiti and Cuba queue outside the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance to apply for asylum and refugee status in Tapachula, Mexico, May 6, 2021.

The United States will expand Haitian eligibility for a humanitarian program that grants deportation relief and work permits to immigrants who cannot safely return to their home countries, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told lawmakers in an email Saturday.

A new designation of so-called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will cover an estimated 150,000 Haitians living in the United States, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said in a written statement.

Democratic lawmakers and pro-immigrant advocates had pressed the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to expand deportation relief for Haitians. Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, sought to end most TPS enrollment, including that of Haitians, but was stymied by federal courts.

The TPS program grants deportation relief and work permits to immigrants whose home countries experience a natural disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary event.

Haitians were granted TPS in 2010 following a devastating earthquake in the Caribbean nation, but the latest move would expand the program to Haitians in the United States as of May 21.

"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," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in an email to lawmakers obtained by Reuters.

“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.”