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Monday, 25th January 2010

CRS -- U.S. Immigration Policy on Haitian Migrants

U.S. Immigration Policy on Haitian Migrants (PDF; 157 KB)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

The environmental, social, and political conditions in Haiti have long prompted congressional interest in U.S. policy on Haitian migrants, particularly those attempting to reach the United States by boat. While some observers assert that such arrivals by Haitians are a breach in border security, others maintain that these Haitians are asylum seekers following a decades old practice of Haitians coming by boat without legal immigration documents. Migrant interdiction and mandatory detention are key components of U.S. policy toward Haitian migrants, but human rights advocates express concern that Haitians are not afforded the same treatment as other asylum seekers.

The devastation caused by the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti has led Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians in the United States at the time of the earthquake. The scale of current humanitarian crisis--estimated thousands of Haitians dead and reported total collapse of the infrastructure in the capital city of Port au Prince--resulted in this TPS announcement on January 15, 2010. More broadly, there are concerns that the crisis conditions in Haiti may result in mass migration from the island.

Agencies within DHS that are the leads in handling a potential mass migration include the U.S. Coast Guard (interdiction); Customs and Border Protection (apprehensions and inspections); Immigration and Customs Enforcement (detention and removal); and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (credible fear determinations). The balancing of DHS's border security and immigration control responsibilities in the midst of a humanitarian disaster poses a challenge.


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