U.S. offers deportation relief to further 309,000 Haitians

FILE PHOTO: Migrants wait for a permit that would allow them to continue their journey to the border between Mexico and the United States

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration will expand deportation relief and work permits to an estimated 309,000 Haitians in the country already, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Friday.

The administration will expand access to the Temporary Protected Status program to Haitians through February 2026 due to violence and security issues in Haiti that limit access to safety, healthcare, food and water, the department said.

About 264,000 Haitians in the U.S. were already covered by the program, according to the U.S. government.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat seeking another term in Nov. 5 elections, has walked a political tightrope when it comes to immigration, trying to step up security at the U.S.-Mexico border while also taking a more humane approach to immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

In a presidential debate on Thursday, Biden's Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, criticized Biden for failing to stem high levels of illegal immigration.

Gang wars in Haiti have displaced over half a million people and nearly five million are facing severe food insecurity. Armed groups, which now control most of the capital, have formed a broad alliance while carrying out widespread killings, ransom kidnappings and sexual violence.

Under the latest move, TPS will now be available to Haitians who were in the U.S. on or before June 3.

The TPS program offers deportation relief and work permits to people in the U.S. whose home countries face armed conflict, natural disasters and other extraordinary events. The designations last six to 18 months but frequently are renewed.

As president, Trump tried to end most TPS enrollment but was blocked in federal courts.

Thousands of Haitian migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Del Rio, Texas, in September 2021 as part of a rise in illegal crossings after Biden took office. In recent years, the number of Haitians caught crossing illegally has plummeted as many have used new legal pathways to the U.S.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Mica Rosenberg, Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O'Brien)