USCIS announced Monday that they will give Haitian nationals another six months to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and the right to work that goes with it. No additional steps will be taken to cope with fraud in the second stage of the process.
The deadline for applications had been this July 20; it will now be January 18, 2011.
In both the earlier and the later period for applying, one must claim to have been in the U.S. on the date of the Haitian earthquake, January 12, 2010, in either legal or illegal status.
USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas made the announcement before a public meeting in Miami to an audience that included many immigration activists and leaders of the Haitian community.
TPS status – which is often renewed over and over again – gives the beneficiary the right to remain in the U.S. in a temporary legal status, and, if another application is filed, the right to work as long as the TPS status lasts. Currently, according to a USCIS bulletin, TPS is due to expire on July 22, 2011. That period is highly likely to be extended several times.
Some 35,000 applications for TPS have been granted, and thousands more are in the pipeline. USCIS had expected more applications than it has received.
Given the nature of the offer of legal status to those in the U.S. on the date of the earthquake, it was clear to me that those applying in the first few days thereafter were highly likely to be legitimate applicants. On January 18 of this year, for instance, there could be very, very few people who entered the U.S. from Haiti after the quake.
Logic would suggest that as time passed there would be more opportunities for travel to the U.S., and thus more opportunities for illicit applications. These would be filed by people who entered the nation after January 12, 2010. Extending the application period for another six months would seem to still further increase such instances of fraud.
That logic, however, apparently is not part of the USCIS thinking process.
These USCIS teleconferences provide an opportunity to ask questions, and mine (from Arlington, Va., not Miami) was: "Mr. Director, given the greater opportunity for fraud in the second half of this program, as opposed to the first, do you plan to have mandatory interviews of the applicants, as you did not in the first half."
He said, as I expected, "no." He added, "We have seen no empirical evidence to suggest that we should change our procedures regarding fraud in the second six months."
I did not have a chance to say so then, but it occurred to me that an agency that does not interview the people it gives benefits to has little opportunity to acquire much "empirical evidence" about potential fraudulent applicants. (There is a review of the papers presented, however.)
There were other benefits offered at the meeting, besides extending the application period for TPS. If you were in the U.S. and had fallen into the hands of DHS, you could, on a case-by-case basis, apply for something called "deferred action." Later in the conference it became clear that "deferred action" meant deferred deportation, and with that status you get the right to work while the deferral takes place.
Another, more limited, benefit is available to those with lapsed or about to lapse B-1 or B-2 visas. Those persons could have their visas (or more precisely their I-94s) extended, but no work permission would be part of that deal.
Director Mayorkas said, in reply to other questions, that the administration was thinking of extending the eligibility date for TPS, not just the application date; further, he said that the government was thinking about letting Haitians with approved family-related immigrant petitions be admitted though backlogged numbers were not available for those persons. There are at least thousands of people in Haiti in that situation.
The language of the immigration business never fails to amaze me. Were the TPS eligibility period to be extended, the director said, it would give the government the power to "capture" more beneficiaries, as if those illegal aliens were somehow being corralled into submission, rather than being granted free access to the U.S. labor market.
How about giving those beneficiaries the "keys to the kingdom?"