Trump administration gives nearly 60,000 Haitians 18 months to leave

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Voodoo ceremony in  Haiti
Residents look at a drunk man as he climbs on a Baron Samdi cross, as they wait for the start of a voodoo ceremony, at the cemetery of Croix des Bouquets, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, November 2, 2015. Reuters/Andres Martinez Casares

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced on Monday that it will not renew the Temporary Protected Status that has allowed almost 60,000 Haitians to remain in the United States. Haitians with provisional legal residency were given an 18-month deadline to leave.

The announcement came after the Department of Homeland Security found that the “extraordinary conditions” justifying their stay in the US after the earthquake in 2010 no longer exist, a senior administration official confirmed. Acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke has released a statement saying the number of displaced people in Haiti has dropped by 97 percent since the 2010 quake.

“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,” Duke said. She justified the 18-month deadline, saying it will allow for an “orderly transition.” Duke believes it is enough time for them and the Haitian government to prepare for their arrival.

The TPS is a transitory immigration status given to eligible nationals of designated countries. It was created in 1990 to protect foreign nationals from deportation given that the executive branch determined that armed conflict or natural disasters in their countries had created instability.

Succeeding administrations have renewed their status, but the Trump administration has stressed that the program was temporary and not a way for people to become long-term legal residents in the US. The decision affects many Haitians who live in Florida, where lawmakers had asked that they be allowed to stay, citing economic and political difficulties in Haiti.

Executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union Rocio Saenz called the decision “heartbreaking, and harmful in every way,” The Washington Post reports. Last week, Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla) called for TPS renewal for the Haitians.

Rubio argued that those sent home will face dire conditions, citing lack of housing, insufficient health services and low prospects for employment. He wrote in the Miami Herald that failure to renew the TPS designation will weaken Haiti’s economy and hinder its ability to recover fully and boost its security.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Immigration experts speculated that some Haitians are likely to seek residency in Canada.

The Trump administration has also announced it will not renew the provisional residency of Nicaraguans. Up to 2,500 of them were given 14 months to pack their bags.