Haiti has asked the Trump administration to grant an 18-month deportation amnesty to its citizens who are already in the U.S., saying the island nation is still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake and can’t handle the return of tens of thousands of people.
Haitian Ambassador Paul G. Altidor, in a letter first reported by the Miami Herald, invited acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to visit Haiti to see the continued struggles firsthand, saying she would conclude that another 18-month reprieve “is a necessity.”
He said an ongoing cholera epidemic and new pressure from last year’s Hurricane Matthew have created new disruptions, beyond the earthquake, that have made the country’s recovery tougher.
The decision would affect some 46,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S. under what’s known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is a humanitarian program designed to make sure people caught in the U.S. at time of a catastrophe in their home country aren’t forced to go back, overwhelming recovery operations.
The Trump administration needs to make a decision on Haiti by the end of this year.
Other looming deadlines involve 60,000 people from Honduras and Nicaragua, which were granted TPS after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador, which has had TPS based on an earthquake in 2001.
A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday asked the Trump administration to renew TPS for Honduras and El Salvador, saying their citizens are boosting the U.S. economy and saying their home countries still aren’t ready to take them back, nearly two decades after the crises.
“Clearly, neither country has the capacity and resources at this time to safely absorb the return of the tens of thousands of their nationals who are currently in the United States under TPS,” the Democrats said.
But the Trump administration has signaled a new approach to TPS.
The Trump administration earlier this year granted a six-month extension but then-Secretary John F. Kelly — now the White House chief of staff — had signaled that Haitians should be prepared for an end to TPS, which they’ve enjoyed since the earthquake.
Mr. Kelly said the law governing TPS says it is supposed to be a temporary status that’s in place only as long as the conditions from the original disaster remain.
“This is the choice that’s being made is they aren’t going to continue to treat this program in ways that aren’t intended,” said department spokesman David Lapan.
The current six-month protection runs out in late January, but a decision must come two months before that.
Decisions on Honduras and Nicaragua are due in early November, while El Salvador’s decision looms early next year.
TPS beneficiaries are granted work permits, allowing them to hold jobs, get driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers and some taxpayer benefits.
Mr. Kelly earlier this year said that abuse of TPS by past administrations had created a situation where some of those people who’ve been protected for nearly two decades have put down roots, and may need to be granted full legal status — a move that would have to come from Congress.
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