Almost eight years after an earthquake destroyed their country – and prompted the U.S. to let them stay in this country protected from deportation – more than 50,000 Haitians were told on Monday they will soon lose that benefit.
The Trump Administration announced it will permanently end Temporary Protected Status – TPS – for Haitians living in the U.S. on July 22, 2019. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had warned Haitians back in May that their TPS could be terminated on January 22, 2018. Monday’s decision allows them 18 additional months to either prepare to return to Haiti or find other legal means of staying here.
TPS was first granted Haitians after the 2010 quake, which killed more than 200,000 people. Since then it has been renewed every 18 months. Haitian immigrant advocates say Haiti is still too devastated, both economically and politically, to force tens of thousands of people back to the western hemisphere’s poorest country.
Moreover, they say, deporting those Haitians, many of whom have put down roots in communities like South Florida, will deprive Haiti of billions of dollars in remittances.
In a tweet Monday evening, Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, called the Administration’s decision “unconscionable.”
“There is no reason to send 60,000 Haitians back to a country that cannon provide for them,” Nelson tweeted.
But DHS said it considers Haiti sufficiently recovered from the quake – as well as more recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Matthew last year – to render TPS for Haitians no longer necessary. The Trump Administration has signaled it would like to end the TPS program because in many cases it has become a quasi-permanent situation for recipients.
Earlier this month the Administration announced it was also ending TPS for some 2,500 Nicaraguans in January of 2019. About 200,000 Salvadorans could face the same as early as next March, while 60,000 Honduran TPS holders were given a 6-month extension until next July.
One possible recourse for those who lose TPS is legislation that would legalize their status. Last month Miami Congressman Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, introduced legislation that would grant Haitian, Honduran, Salvadoran and Nicaraguan TPS holders permanent U.S. residence.
Beyond that short-term solution, other bills would revise the TPS program, created by Congress in 1990, to give its beneficiaries eventual opportunities to adjust their immigration status.