On Monday, Homeland Security official announced the end of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for the almost 60,000 Haitian people living in the US since their country suffered massive damage from an earthquake in 2010. People previously allowed to live and work here under TPS have until July 2019 to leave, or face deportation.
The New York Times reports that TPS for Haiti was last extended in May, but for only 6 months, with former Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly warning that Haitians “need to start thinking about returning.”
TPS status is regularly reviewed, and the Obama administration also rescinded it for various countries in Africa affected by the ebola outbreak. According to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, conditions in Haiti have improved:
“Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent,” the statement said. “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.”
But this assertion is widely contested, with many saying Haiti is in no condition to suddenly provide for 60,000 people. In addition to slow recovery from the 2010 earthquake, the country sustained considerable damage during Hurricane Matthew, in 2016.
The program was created in 1990 as a way to protect residents whose home countries are too dangerous to return to, and serves 320,000 people living in the US. Last month, acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke ended Temporary Protected Status for Nicaragua, which includes about 2,500 people. Haitians are the second largest group currently under TPS in the US after people from El Salvador. El Salvador’s TPS is under review, and an announcement regarding their status is expected next month.