Tens of thousands of Haitians will soon lose their protection from expulsion from the United States. Many were permitted to come to the U.S. after a powerful earthquake shook the nation in 2010. The quake caused billions of dollars in damage and killed 300,000 people. About 1.5 million were injured and an equal number were displaced.
This week, a Trump administration official told reporters that the conditions in Haiti had improved, in her words, “such that they no longer prevent nationals of Haiti from returning safely.”
Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will be cancelled for almost 60,000 Haitians living and working in the U.S. on July 22, 2019. They must either return to Haiti by that date or request permission to stay in the U.S. permanently.
Opponents of the administration’s decision note that Haiti has been hit by three damaging hurricanes recently. They also say it continues to suffer from a deadly spread of cholera. And, last week, the Office of Civil Protection confirmed that at least five people had died and 10,000 homes were flooded after days of rain.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Many Haitians live in the part of South Florida that she represents. She sharply criticized the administration’s decision.
On Twitter, she wrote: “I traveled to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. So, I can personally attest that Haiti is not prepared to take back nearly 60,000 TPS recipients under these difficult and harsh conditions.”
Activists are asking Congress to create a permanent solution for the Haitians who have lived in the United States since 2010.
Lys Isma spoke to reporters this week. Her family fled to the United States from Haiti when she was nine months old. She said her community, in her words, “is tired of living 18 months at a time. We need a permanent solution.”
In May, the Department of Homeland Security extended TPS for Haitians for six months. The Haitian government had asked for a one-year extension. The department said the extension would permit Haitians with TPS the time to get travel documents and make plans to leave the United States. The department also said the extension gives the Haitian government time to prepare for the return of their people.”
Paul Altidor is Haiti’s ambassador to the United States. He told VOA that his country would welcome the return of those he called “our brothers and sisters.” But he said Haiti was not ready to accept the immediate return of tens of thousands of citizens.
Several thousand Haitian immigrants illegally entered Canada from the U.S. in the summer. They have asked for asylum there.
The Center for Migration Studies says most Haitians who are part of the TPS program have been living in the United States for 13 years and have 27,000 children who are U.S. citizens. More than 80 percent have jobs and 6,200 have home loans, the research group says.
Haitian immigrants live mostly in South Florida, New York, New Jersey and eastern Massachusetts.
TPS was ended for Sudan in October. On January 8, the Trump administration is to decide what to do about the more than 130,000 people from El Salvador also under TPS.
Earlier this month, the administration cancelled protection for thousands of Nicaraguans who fled to the U.S. after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The Trump administration said it would decide in July whether to cancel protection for 57,000 Hondurans who also fled the hurricane.
Elaine Duke, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, admitted that families would face “difficulties” if their protections are cancelled. She called on Congress to find a permanent solution.
I’m Phil Dierking.
VOANews reported this story. Additional reporting was provided by the VOA Creole Service. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in This Story
attest - v. to show, prove, or state that something is true or real
harsh - adj. severe or cruel