The Trump administration has given more than 50,000 Haitians with provisional legal residency in this country 18 months to leave, announcing Monday that it will not renew the Temporary Protected Status that has allowed them to remain here for more than seven years.
The decision came after the Department of Homeland Security determined that the “extraordinary conditions” justifying their presence following a 2010 earthquake “no longer exist,” according to a senior administration official.
Haitian government officials, and a number of Florida lawmakers, had asked that the Haitians be allowed to remain, citing ongoing economic and political difficulties in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a still-raging cholera epidemic.
But the official, one of several authorized to brief reporters, said that Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, after extensive research and input from U.S. and Haitian government officials, as well as experts, had “assessed overall that extraordinary temporary conditions” that justified the designation in the first place, “had sufficiently improved such that they no longer prevent nationals of Haiti from returning.”
The official cited a sharp decrease in the number of internally displaced persons as a result of the earthquake, and said that a legitimate Haitian government is now in place.
“The law is relatively explicit, that if the conditions on the ground do not support a TPS designation, then the secretary must terminate,” the official said.
The Haitians are among several groups of foreigners living in this country under TPS, some of them for decades, and awaiting a decision on whether their status will be renewed. The vast majority are from Central America and Haiti.
Earlier this month, the administration announced it would not renew the provisional residency of 2,500 Nicaraguans, and gave them 14 months to leave the United States.
But Duke deferred for six months a decision for the much larger group of 57,000 Hondurans living here under the same designation, saying that more time was needed for consideration. The deferral came after an unsuccessful White House effort to pressure her to end the program, officials said at the time.
Both the Nicaraguans and Hondurans have been shielded from deportation since a devastating 1998 hurricane hit those nations.
TPS status for an additional 200,000 Salvadorans, here since El Salvador was struck by a series of earthquakes in 2001, is also due to expire in early January.
Most of those with TPS status arrived here illegally. They have been exempted from deportation under a 1990 law that allows them to legally remain if the executive branch determines that instability and precarious conditions exist in their countries as the result of natural disasters or armed conflict.
Successive administrations have repeatedly renewed TPS status of the Central Americans and Haitians for between six and 18 months.
Trump administration officials have noted that the program was meant to be temporary, and not a way for people to become long-term residents of the United States. They have said their decisions on further extensions are made on the basis of whether the initial justification for the status still exists.
Days before the Nicaraguan and Honduran decision was announced, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Duke that the State Department assessed that TPS was no longer necessary for the Central Americans and Haitians.
Most of the Haitians live in Florida, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called publicly last week for their protected status to be extended. “Haitians sent home will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and low prospects for employment,” Rubio wrote in the Miami Herald. “Failure to renew the TPS designation will weaken Haiti’s economy and impede its ability to recover completely and improve its security.”
A senior official briefing reporters Monday said that the 18 month “wind-down is a lengthy time to allow families with U.S.-born children to make decisions about what to do, and make arrangements.”