President Donald Trump’s administration announced Monday that it will terminate a form of temporary immigration status for thousands of Haitian nationals living in the U.S.
Beginning July 22, 2019, about 59,000 Haitians who have been granted relief under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program will no longer have a reprieve from deportation, a senior administration official told reporters on background.
The expiration of TPS will come at the end of an 18-month wind down period designed to give the Haitian nationals time to make arrangements to return to their home country or apply for a separate immigration benefit, if eligible.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke made the determination after an “intense inter-agency review process” of TPS requirements under current immigration law, officials said. The review found that conditions on the ground in Haiti have improved to the point where the administration can no longer justify maintaining the TPS designation.
DHS may grant TPS to foreign nationals already in the U.S. if conditions in their home country prevent them from returning safely, or if the country is unable to accommodate their return. People with TPS are shielded from deportation on the basis of immigration status and are eligible for work permits and travel authorizations.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration designated Haiti as a TPS country in 2010 after a massive earthquake hit the poverty-stricken nation, killing hundreds of thousands and destroying much of its infrastructure.
In the years since, Haiti has struggled to rebuild as it has suffered additional natural disasters, outbreaks of disease and civil unrest. But the Haitian government has recently made significant strides in improving basic living conditions and quelling political turmoil, a review by DHS and State Department officials found.
Officials pointed to several signs of improvement in Haiti, including the reduction of internally displaced persons by 97 percent, the formation of a stable national government, and the withdrawal of U.N. military personnel in 2015. The U.S. government will continue its assistance programs in economic development and democratic governance to assist with the re-integration of Haitians, administration officials said.
“Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens,” DHS said in a statement. “Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated.”
Then-DHS Secretary John Kelly extended the TPS designation for Haiti by six months in May, but warned at the time that it was a “limited” grace period to “allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to obtain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States.”
Administration officials emphasized on Monday the temporary aspect of the TPS designation and said lawmakers have to step in if they want to extend it once again.
“The law makes it clear that TPS for Haiti must end,” a senior official said. “Only Congress can take action to reform the TPS program or address the concerns voiced by many that these individuals should have a future in the United States.”
At the end of the 18-month grace period, all Haitian nationals with TPS will revert to their previous immigration status, officials said. In the meantime, those eligible can apply for immigration status on the basis of another claim, such as marriage to a U.S. citizen.
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