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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake

Posted , Tuesday, May 17, 2011 

Something new under the US sun: Relief for undocumented Haitians is extended

WASHINGTON Undocumented Haitians who arrived in the United States in the aftermath of the devastating January 2010 earthquake in their country will be allowed to apply for a special asylum program, US officials said Tuesday.

In the days after the earthquake, President Barack Obama's administration gave Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to thousands of Haitians living in the United States without proper immigration documents.

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that immigrants who were in the United States illegally before the quake struck, and up to one year after the quake -- as of January 12, 2011 -- will also be able to obtain TPS.

An immigrant granted TPS can stay legally in the United States through January 22, 2013 without fear of deportation, and following a review of their case, can obtain a temporary work permit.

"In the extended aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, the United States has remained fully committed to upholding our responsibility to assist individuals affected by this tragedy by using tools available under the law," said Napolitano.

"Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration's continuing efforts to support Haiti's recovery," she said in a statement.

The designation of TPS for eligible Haitians living in the United States since before the quake was originally announced by Napolitano in mid-January 2010.

On Tuesday that designation was also extended to migrants who arrived up to one year after the earthquake.

"Many of these individuals were authorized to enter the United States immediately after the earthquake on temporary visas, humanitarian parole and through other immigration measures," the statement read.

"Haitians who are not currently in the United States ... should not attempt to enter the United States illegally to try to take advantage of this benefit," the statement emphasized.

Both the extension and re-designation are effective July 23, the DHS said.

Some 48,000 Haitian nationals with TPS live in the United States, according to DHS figures.

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