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DHS Ending Protected Status for Haitians as Some Lawmakers Urge Legalization Bill

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that temporary protected status would be ending for Haitians despite months of lobbying from lawmakers to continue the program that allows some 50,000 Haitians to stay in the United States without fear of deportation.

Temporary protected status, which is extended to foreign nationals unable to safely return to their home countries, was first offered to Haitians after the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people. Last year, Hurricane Matthew pummeled the island, worsening the country's cholera outbreak that has killed more than 10,000. A December U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report evaluating the status said conditions were still poor in Haiti, "including a housing shortage, a cholera epidemic and limited access to medical care, damage to the economy ... political instability, security risks, food insecurity, and environmental risks."

DHS said in a statement that Secretary Elaine Duke decided to terminate the TPS for Haitians on July 22, 2019, "to allow for an orderly transition" in which Haitians can "arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible."

"The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals, as required by statute," DHS said. "Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, Acting Secretary Duke determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated."

Duke recently met with Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue and Haitian Ambassador to the United States Paul Altidor to discuss the issue, the department said.

"Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent. 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," DHS added. "Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated."

Among the lawmakers who had urged an extension of the program was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who wrote in a Friday Miami Herald op-ed that "Haitians sent home will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and low prospects for employment."

"Failure to renew the TPS designation will weaken Haiti’s economy and impede its ability to recover completely and improve its security," Rubio added. "...Haitians who have been in the United States under TPS have played a significant role in rebuilding their country. Personal contributions from the Haitian community in the U.S. make up nearly 25 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product. Many Haitians depend on the financial support from family members abroad, which amounted to $2.4 billion in 2016 and has grown steadily every year since 1998."