US ends ‘protected’ status for Haitian immigrants
The United States Department of Homeland Security ended on Monday a program that gave some 59,000 Haitian immigrants temporary protection in the US, but the decision will only take effect in 18 months.
Haitian immigrants received Temporary Protected Status after a 2010 earthquake that devastated the already impoverished Caribbean nation.
The mega-disaster killed more than 200,000 people, destroyed much of the capital Port-au-Prince and displaced 1.5 million Haitians.
TPS made it possible for Haitians in the US to stay after their visas expired and to work legally.
But after a review, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke “determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist”, a statement read.
“Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 per cent. 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.”
The statement said Ms Duke had met with Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue and Ambassador Paul Altidor in Washington in recent days to discuss the issue.
The move opens the door for the immigrants’ potential repatriation, but the Department of Homeland Security said the 18-month delay “will provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible”.
It vowed to facilitate an “orderly transition”.
Delaying the end of the permits until July 22, 2019, amounted to a win for diaspora organisations and international NGOs, who had pressed the US not to allow them to expire in January as previously planned.
DHS officials previously said there are about 58,700 Haitians living in the US under TPS.
Many do not have up-to-date Haitian travel documents, which has posed a problem to ending their status.
In order to legally work in the US, Haitians benefiting from the designation will have to reapply for employment authorization documents.
As part of a general crackdown on illegal immigration, the government has been deporting Haitians who do not have temporary protected status, raising protests from pro-immigrant groups.