Haitian Immigrants After 2010 Quake Lose U.S. Protected Status

  • Almost 60,000 in U.S., who will have 18 months to return
  • Temporary protection for immigrants drew Grassley’s criticism

Almost 60,000 Haitians living in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake that leveled much of the nation have lost their protected immigrant status and will have 18 months to prepare for their return to the island or achieve lawful immigration, the Trump administration announced Monday.

Living and working in the U.S. under the so-called Temporary Protected Status, the fate of the Haitians in the U.S. was signaled earlier this year, when the Trump administration said in May it wasn’t likely to extend the protection at the next deadline, which comes this week.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, in a statement, said the U.S. had "conducted extensive outreach" to Haitian communities in the U.S. to prepare for the decision to terminate their protection and cited "significant steps" that Haiti has made since the earthquake to handle the return of its citizens.

"Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent," Duke said in the statement, adding that Haiti had "demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated."

The protection program came under criticism from Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, who said in an Oct. 30 letter to Duke that immigrants living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status were "taking jobs that could be filled by unemployed U.S. workers and would be of better use helping out their home countries."

There are about 320,000 people living in the U.S. under TPS, with more than 90 percent coming from Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti. Losing them could cost the U.S. about $280 million in contributions to gross domestic product, according to an analysis from the Immigrant Resource Center.

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