The U.S. government said Tuesday it is granting Haitian immigrants who fled their poor Caribbean nation after last year's devastating earthquake more time to live and work legally in the U.S. while Haiti rebuilds.
Haitian immigrants with temporary protected status, which was set to expire in July, can apply to extend the residency and employment benefits for another 18 months, until January 2013, authorities said.
Originally, only Haitians living illegally in the U.S. before the Jan. 12, 2010, quake that shattered Haiti's capital were eligible for the protected status. Now, Haitians who arrived up to one year after the quake and have lived here continuously ever since also are eligible for temporary protected status, Homeland Security officials said in a statement.
Many of those Haitians were medically evacuated after the earthquake on temporary visas, humanitarian parole or through other immigration measures that are expiring or did not allow employment.
"They've been stranded here. They have no place to return to and no ability to sustain themselves," said Randy McGrorty, head of the Archdiocese of Miami's Catholic Legal Services.