The Trump administration will terminate humanitarian immigration visas offered to Haitian refugees.
Reports from Politico indicate that Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke was forced to make a decision on the migrants by Thanksgiving Day. After mulling over whether to extend “temporary protected status” permits to Haitians, Duke declined to renew an authorization.
Originally granted “TPS” in the aftermath of a devastating 2010 earthquake, some 59,000 Haitian nationals were legally permitted to settle in the United States.
“Temporary protected status” has been used to resettle peoples in the United States from around the world, often following genocide, war, or natural disaster. Sometimes – in the case of Nicaraguans and Honduras – TPS settlements can last for decades.
But, seven years after the earthquake, Duke says Haitians are ready to return home.
The DHS secretary said she spoke with officials in the United States and the Caribbean island nation before making a decision.
Duke explained her decision, saying that ground conditions in Haiti are no longer so dire as to continue extending a special status to some migrants.
The move to cancel TPS for Haitians means that program beneficiaries will be allowed to remain in the United States up until July 22nd, 2019.
Anyone staying longer could face detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and, eventually, deportation.
Duke’s statement follows attempts by the administration to revoke the temporary protected status of Nicaraguan nationals and Hondurans, many of whom have been living in the United States since the 1990s.
Officials from each of the three countries – Nicaragua, Honduras, and now, Haiti – have asked the administration to rethink its decision.
Nicaragua and Haiti are the two poorest nations in the Western hemisphere, with governments and immigration agencies ill-equipped to handle an influx of citizens totaling in the tens of thousands each.
However, Duke resisted White House pressure, opting to preserve TPS for some 86,000 Hondurans living in the United States. Simultaneously, she canceled the status for some 5,300 Nicaraguans, giving them until early 2019 to return home.
An unnamed official who spoke to Politico tried explaining the disparity in decision-making.
The source said that DHS officials weren’t able to accurately gauge whether it’d be safe for Honduran nationals to return to their homeland.
Honduras – like the Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador – is at the epicenter of a regional gang crisis, which has led the three nations to have some of the highest intentional homicide rates in the world.
Some lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), asked Duke and the Department of Homeland Security to grant Haitians another 18-month extension before reconsidering their temporary protected status. Eight other Florida lawmakers who said “the need for a full extension is clear.”
“If TPS is not extended,” wrote Rubio in a Miami Herald op-ed, “Haitians sent home will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and low prospects for employment.”