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Haitian refugees to receive extended asylum

In an effort to render aid to displaced Haitians after the devastating earthquake struck the country in January of last year, the Obama Administration offered Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to several thousand undocumented Haitians in the United States.

The TPS program offers temporary asylum to Haitians who were in the United States illegally prior to the earthquake and up until January 12, 2011. Originally, the program had just been for undocumented Haitians who had been in the United States before the earthquake, but President Obama announced last week that the TPS would also extend to migrants who came up to one year after the disaster.

Those who qualify for the program will be allowed to stay in the country until January 22, 2013 without the threat of deportation due to their undocumented status. At the end of this time, each case will be reviewed separately and a decision will be made whether or not to grant a temporary work permit visa.

According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data, there are approximately 48,000 Haitian nationals currently living in the United States under temporary protected status. There are concerns at the DHS that some Haitians may come to the United States now, believing that they will be granted TPS, but this will not happen, the DHS said.

United States policies on illegal immigration have not changed and will be enforced using the resources available to discourage illegal entry into the country, whether attempted on land or by sea. Anyone attempting to illegally enter the United States will be sent back to their country of origin, the DHS said.

An official with the United States Coast Guard said nearly 700 Haitians have been discovered by the Coast Guard and sent back to Haiti since October 2010, and that many of the ships carrying the Haitians are unsafe and severely overloaded.

"Migrant interdiction missions are as much humanitarian missions as they are border security missions," the official said.

Source: AFP, "US extends relief for undocumented Haitians," 5/18/2011.

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