Obama suspends deportations of Haitians following quake

Miami HeraldJanuary 13, 2010 

The Obama administration is temporarily suspending deportations of undocumented Haitian nationals who are in the United States, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Wednesday at a news conference in Miami.

But there are no immediate indications from the Obama administration that it would grant Haitian nationals Temporary Protected Status in the aftermath of Tuesday's earthquake.

Better known by its acronym TPS, the immigration benefit is given to certain immigrants in the United States who cannot safely return to their countries because of armed conflicts, natural disasters or other emergencies. Those eligible for TPS are allowed to remain in the United States.

Haitian activists have sought TPS for years to no avail.

Speaking at the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center in Doral, Crist said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told him by telephone that her department was halting removals of undocumented Haitian immigrants to the earthquake-devastated country.

"In my conversations with Secretary Napolitano, she indicated that that was already in effect," said Crist, who spoke with Napolitano on Wednesday morning. "According to the secretary, no one will be sent back."

Department of Homeland Security Department officials officially announced the move in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon:

"Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton today halted all removals to Haiti for the time being in response to the devastation caused by yesterday's earthquake."

The move marks the first time federal officials have moved in a significant way to stop all deportations to Haiti.

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