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Displaced Haitians will be allowed to stay in US an extra 18 months

By Jacqueline Charles, The Miami Herald –

MIAMI — Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has extended temporary protected status for Haitians living in the United States for another 18 months, beginning Jan. 22, 2013.

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to publish a notice in the Federal Register this week announcing the decision, which will allow about 60,000 Haitian citizens to remain in the United States until July 2014. Haitians will have 60 days to re-register from the day that the notice is published.

Haitian advocates and immigration activists welcomed the news and said they were grateful, but complained that a double standard and discrimination against Haitians continue.

”We had no doubts that TPS would be extended given the in-country conditions right now. We just were not sure if it was going to happen before or after the elections,” said Marleine Bastien, founder of Haitian Women of Miami. “We are grateful that it’s extended even though it is with the same failings that we have brought to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security.”

Bastien said students who arrived in South Florida after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti cannot go to college because they are being charged prohibitive out-of-state tuition. Some who are in nursing school cannot sit for their nursing exam because of their TPS status.

She also said Haitians continue to be deported to Haiti despite the sluggish recovery from the earthquake and a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 7,000 and infected more than a half million people.

Also of concern for Bastien and other activists is what they say is DHS’ refusal to approve a Haitian family reunification parole for thousands of Haitian families who have already been approved to join their U.S.-citizen and legal-resident family members in the United States. According to the department’s own statistics, there are 112,000 Haitians in the pipeline.

“These people have been waiting two and a half to 11 years,” said immigration activist Steve Forester, noting that about 15,800 of those waiting are minors. “These petitions have already been approved by DHS. It’s senseless given the conditions in Haiti that people should have to wait for so long. At least make a start somewhere, beginning with some of the most vulnerable. It just takes DHS’ decision.”

In Haiti, the number of people still in tents has dropped from 1.5 million to just under 400,000. And while donors and the Haitian government have been highlighting the improvements in recent days, it comes as the country has been rocked by isolated protests in some of its major cities. Protesters are complaining about rising prices and government corruption.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, responding to the crises last week on a local Haitian radio station, urged the population to remain calm, saying “You have a government that’s working on behalf of your interest.”

In recent days, however, Lamothe has come under criticism by protest organizers for referring to protesters as “mercenaries.” Seeking to clarify the statement, he told Haitian journalist Nancy Roc in an email that the reference was to those looting and burning tires and not the protesters per se.

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