The government is giving Haitian immigrants who fled their island nation after last year's devastating earthquake more time to live and work in the U.S. legally while their country rebuilds.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday it was extending a temporary protective status for qualified Haitian immigrants for another 18 months. It was due to expire in July.
Homeland Security officials said in a statement that Haitian immigrants who have "continuously resided" in the U.S. since Jan. 12, 2011, will also be eligible for the protection. The rule had previously applied only to immigrants who arrived in the immediate aftermath of the devastating earthquake.
So far, at least 48,000 Haitians have been granted protected status.
Councilman Mathieu Eugene of Flatbush, himself a Haitian-born immigrant, and other advocates had lobbied the government to extend the program past the July expiration date.
Eugene told NBC New York last week that the Haitian community in his district has grown significantly since the earthquake, and the lack of infrastructure, resources and medical care in the country make returning an unacceptable option.
He called the renewal of the program "a humanitarian response."