Nearly 60,000 Haitians remain in the U.S. under provisional legal residency following the 2010 earthquake that rattled and devastated the Caribbean nation. They now have 18 months to become U.S. citizens or return to their home country.
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Nov. 20 that it would not renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the earthquake survivors since the "extraordinary conditions" that made it acceptable to grant them residence "no longer exist."
"Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent," said acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke in a statement. “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 DHS had previously announced in May that it would extend TPS for Haitians until Jan. 22, 2018, and review their renewal at least 60 days prior to that date, PolitiFact reports.
TPS is granted to foreign nationals when conditions in their home country make it unsafe for them to return or if their country is unprepared to handle their return. Past administrations have regularly decided to renew the status of Haitians as well as the status of displaced nationals from other groups.
About 440,000 individuals from 10 countries live in the U.S. under TPS, most of which come from Central America and Haiti. According to reports by The Washington Post, many of the TPS Haitians now have children in the U.S.
The decision comes a few weeks after the DHS decided to revoke protected status for 2,500 Nicaraguans who remained in the U.S. since an extreme hurricane in 1998. They were given a 14-month deadline to leave.
Duke used more restraint in deciding whether to renew TPS for the 57,000 Honduras that were also displaced after a 1998 hurricane. She withheld the decision for six months, though the deportation of the similarly-sized group of Haitians doesn't bode well for those hoping to stay in the country.
By far the largest group is Salvadorans, who have been in the U.S. since an earthquake struck their nation in 2001. TPS will expire for those 200,000 individuals in January 2018.
Both Democratic and GOP lawmakers were critical of the decision to revoke TPS for Nicaraguans and now Haitians. The largest Haitian population resides in Florida.
"Similar to my disagreement with the decision to end TPS for Nicaraguan nationals, I am strongly opposed to and disagree with the decision to end TPS for Haiti," said Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida on Twitter. "These individuals experienced severe loss and suffering as a result of the 2010 earthquake, and forcing them to leave the United States would be detrimental. Almost eight years later, Haiti remains in total disarray and still requires much rebuilding."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, another Florida GOP lawmaker, echoed a similar sentiment.
"I traveled to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and after hurricane Matthew in 2016," she said. "So I can personally attest that Haiti is not prepared to take back nearly 60,000 TPS recipients under these difficult and harsh conditions."
The Washington Post reports that Ros-Lehtinen is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to extend TPS for Haitians and others.
Sources: The Washington Post, PolitiFact, Mario Diaz-Balart/Twitter (2) / Featured Image: Spc. Karin Leach via U.S. Army / Embedded Images: Expert Infantry/Flickr, Staff Sgt. Gus Morse via U.S. Air Force