The Trump administration has announced it will end the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti by July 2019, potentially forcing tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants to either leave the U.S. or live in the shadows.
But the official, one of several authorized to brief reporters, said that Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, after extensive research and input from US and Haitian government officials, as well as experts, had "assessed overall that extraordinary temporary conditions" that justified the designation in the first place, "had sufficiently improved such that they no longer prevent nationals of Haiti from returning".
Haitians who have been in the United States under TPS have played a significant role in rebuilding their country. "Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country's TPS designation is terminated".
When Kelly temporarily extended the status for Haiti, which had received the designation after an natural disaster devastated the island in 2010, he warned the almost 58,700 recipients living in America to prepare their affairs for going back to Haiti or to find another way to apply to stay in the United States.
"Since the 2010 quake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent", the department said in a press release.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., last week publicly called TPS renewal for the Haitians, saying that those "sent home will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and low prospects for employment". Florida and Texas may be particularly hard hit as they continue to recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has made immigration enforcement a core part of his pitch in his run for governor, is criticizing his ally Donald Trump, charging that the White House failed a "big test" on immigration by moving too slowly to end special deportation protections for almost 60,000 Haitians.
The bulk of the Haitians impacted by the order live in Florida.
And once they're gone, they're Haiti's problem again.
The latest move does not affect thousands of Haitians who were taken in by Brazil and other South American countries after the quake and began making their way to the United States previous year, according to an ABC news report. Thousands are still displaced and living in tents.
But now, the Trump administration is ending the program that allowed them to do so. "Temporary Protected Status is a program that needs to be defended, and we must fight for it".
Officials said Monday that the political climate in Haiti had stabilized. Many of them work in fields like home care.
Duke is weighing in the status for 57,000 Hondurans, after having extended the expiration date by six months from its original January 5 deadline. Representative Illean Ros-Lehtinen took to Twitter Monday evening to share what she saw on the ground in Haiti after both disasters, writing that she "can personally attest that Haiti is not prepared to take back almost 60,000 TPS recipients under these hard and harsh conditions". Meanwhile, those who stayed in Haiti are anxious about what will happen to fragile Haitian economy when this decision dents the money sent home from the mainland, which accounts for an estimated 25% of Haiti's GDP.