At least 50,000 Haitian immigrants are registered for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which permits them to live and work in the United States.
Speaking with Gothamist last week, Matiychenko predicted that the revocation of TPS would not result in a mass exodus back to Haiti. This month, however, the Associated Press revealed that a top immigration official was searching for crime and other statistics on Haitian immigrants, sparking fears that the administration was building a case to end temporary protection.
"This six-month extension should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients", Kelly stated in a news release on his announcement.
"Secretary Kelly is taking a look at the TPS program with a fresh set of eyes, and really wants to ensure that all of our immigration programs are administered in a way that benefits that national interest", a senior administration official said.
"Haiti obviously has many issues, and I spoke to Secretary Kelly when he was up here about our concerns about this issue, and the fact that they've put a delay in place I think is a good thing", he told reporters. President Jovenel Moise was sworn in in February.
TPS status does not lead toward permanent residency but does allow beneficiaries to work while in the U.S. Mixed-status families could be torn apart.
Immigrant-rights advocates say conditions in Haiti are so rough that they deserve a longer-term protection, but Homeland Security officials said Mr. Kelly was following the strict letter of the law, which says he is supposed to look at the factors that led to the TPS grant in 2010 - in this case, the natural disaster.
The U.S. government official, who has been briefed on the decision, said the program will continue until January.
TPS recipients and advocates are meeting with community leaders at the Haitian Women of Miami in Little Haiti Monday to share their stories and how they feel about possible deportation if TPS expires. But it's not like the expiration of the amnesty would mean all 50,000 would be rounded up and sent home the next day. With subsequent droubt and more flooding, "they still haven't been able to begin to recover from that".
"If they and the organizations that support them are left to crumble, then all of us suffer and this undermines us a whole", she added.
A report prepared by the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, James McCament, in April recommended the secretary terminate the program, but delay the effective date until January to allow "a period of orderly transition".
Only Haitians now protected by TPS will be covered by the extension; DHS will not consider new applicants.
And Kelly cites are other signs of improvement: The government has announced plans to rebuild the presidential palace, and conditions have stabilized enough that United Nations forces are preparing to leave the country.
As part of a general crackdown on illegal immigration, the government has been deporting Haitians who do not have temporary protected status, raising protests from pro- immigrant groups. They include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, hardest hit by an Ebola crisis several years ago. Somalia, South Sudan and Syria are also eligible for the status.