The U.S. Catholic bishops expressed appreciation on May 17 for the Obama administration's decision to extend the “Temporary Protected Status” of Haitian immigrants, in keeping with the bishops' own recommendations.
“It is simply the right thing to do,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the U.S. bishops' chairman on migration. “This action will permit those who entered the United States in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster to remain and work to support their families.”
The administration's decision will extend Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for another 18 months, beginning on July 23. It will apply to Haitians who entered the U.S. up to one year after the earthquake that struck the island on January 12, 2010.
Tucson, Arizona Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, chairman of Catholic Relief Services, noted that many of these immigrants were sending money back to a country hit hard by disease and natural disasters.
“The re-designation of TPS to Haiti will preserve the flow of much-needed remittances to that stricken country,” he said. He said these money transfers from friends and relatives were “vital to bolstering the fragile Haitian economy and supporting the national recovery.”
However, both bishops are concerned about deportation of some individuals back to Haiti. The deportations stopped temporarily after one deportee died of cholera in a Haitian jail, but resumed in April 2011.
“We remain troubled by the resumption of deportations to Haiti,” said Bishop Kicanas, noting that the country may be “ill-equipped to handle them” in a manner that would respect prisoners' human dignity.
More than a million Haitians remain homeless due to last year's earthquake, and there are fears that the coming rainy season will worsen the ongoing cholera epidemic.