Roofing contractors who rely on the labor provided by Haitian nationals breathed a sigh of relief following the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that these individuals can apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The TPS program benefits people residing in the U.S. from countries that are suffering from wars, natural disasters and other extraordinary circumstances. The construction industry legally employs roughly 51,700 TPS individuals, making it a crucial policy that helps curtail the ongoing workforce shortage.

In a statement on May 22, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Haiti is experiencing security concerns, social unrest and human rights abuses, all of which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home,” said Mayorkas.

The Trump administration announced in January 2018 that it would rescind the Haiti TPS status July 22, 2019, meaning anyone with this status would be subject to deportation. Several lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s actions kept the status in effect.

The extension of TPS for Haitian residents became effective May 21, and extends the designation for 18 months. TPS applies only to individuals who are already residing in the U.S. as of May 21 and meet all other requirements. Individuals eligible for TPS under Haiti’s new designation must file an application for TPS with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) commended the Biden administration for taking this action, saying it supports the extension of TPS for countries where conditions warrant. NRCA CEO Reid Ribble said a failure to do otherwise would “exacerbate ongoing workforce shortages and cause severe disruption for many hardworking individuals and families who have been contributing to their communities for many years.”

“NRCA recognizes the need for reform of TPS as a component of our immigration system, which Congress urgently needs to address,” Ribble said.

Immigration reform was one of the key items the NRCA and roofing professionals from around the country spoke with their congressional representatives about during the 2021 Virtual Roofing Day. Specifically, the NRCA voiced its support for the Dreams and Promise Act, which would allow individuals with TPS who have a demonstrated employment record and meet other criteria to receive permanent legal status. This legislation is currently pending in the Senate.

"NRCA urges lawmakers to continue working to develop bipartisan legislative solutions that can be enacted into law," Ribble said.

Advanced Roofing of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is among those who have advocated for immigration reform on behalf of the roofing industry. His business employs at least 20 TPS individuals, some of whom are from Haiti — a country the Department of Homeland Security designated for TPS in January 2010 following the aftermath of a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

“We simply can’t find enough employees, and the misconception that workers with temporary protected status (TPS) and those with seasonal H2B visas would take the jobs of able-bodied U.S. workers, at a lower wage, does not correlate to facts,” said Advanced Roofing CEO Rob Kornhaus in a 2019 RC blog post. “With 22 current TPS employees from Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador — including three foremen trained by the company, working well and paying taxes — the prospect of arbitrarily ending TPS workers’ stay in the U.S. is pure folly.”