"It's an Ill Wind . . . " Hurricane Sandy and TPS for Haitians

By David North, December 28, 2012

The administration continues to go out of its way to be nice to illegal aliens, and others from Haiti, who are now in the U.S. with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS was granted to Haitians in the U.S. originally because of the earthquake of January 12, 2010.

TPS gives otherwise ineligible people legal status in 18-month chunks, during which they are free to work in the above-ground labor market. The beneficiaries are not on a path to citizenship, but they are much better off than they were before, because, among other things, they are also not on a path to deportation. But they do have to re-register every 18 months.

The latest wrinkle relates to the re-registration period for TPS beneficiaries, which was originally scheduled for October 1 through November 30, 2012. Midway through that period Hurricane Sandy swept through the East Coast, being particularly harmful to New York City, the home of many of the TPS Haitians.

According to the announcement in today's Federal Register "DHS recognizes that Haitian TPS beneficiaries affected by the hurricane may require additional time to prepare a re-registration application and to gather either the funds to cover the re-registration fees or the documentation to support a fee waiver request."

So, DHS, instead of extending the October-November registration window for a while to cope with what it regarded as a major problem, let the registration period come to an end, and then, as of December 28, 2012, re-opened it again to close, this time, on January 29, 2013.

This would not be particularly remarkable except that TPS for Haiti, as opposed to TPS for many other nations, has seen an unusual pattern of frequent re-openings of the program. Temporary refugee programs, of course, never are terminated, as Mark Krikorian has noted before, but in the case of Haiti not only is TPS not terminated, its registration periods keep being re-opened.

To recapitulate, as noted in an earlier blog:

DHS, shortly after the quake, gave all Haitians in the U.S. as of the quake six months to apply for TPS, and made a major effort to promote the program. It also eliminated the personal interview requirement, and made it easier for applicants to seek fee waivers.

Later in 2010, when the number of applications fell below expectations, DHS extended the initial registration period for another six months.

Fast forward to May 2011; DHS changed the basic rules, saying that illegals who had entered the country before January 12, 2011, were also eligible for TPS. To my knowledge a TPS eligibility date had never been advanced before. And today, the usual 60-day registration period was extended, because of Sandy.

My sense is that USCIS keeps being disappointed at the TPS turnout, but it's not because of storms, it is because interior enforcement of the immigration law is so tepid, and the talk of an impending legalization program is so common that a lot of Haitian illegals decide, understandably, why bother?

According to the Miami Herald the current Haitian enrollment in TPS is about 60,000; at one point USCIS expected more than twice as many would take advantage of its provisions.

Incidentally, if one is eligible for TPS and holds another nonimmigrant visa, such as an F-1 for international students, the individual alien can choose whichever status suits them best, a highly unusual feature in the migration business.