Outrage After Trump Admin. Cancels Protected Status for 59,000 Haitian Refugees

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Outrage After Trump Admin. Cancels Protected Status for 59,000 Haitian Refugees

Critics called the decision "another example of the cruel indifference of the Trump administration and its continued efforts to abandon our country's history as a nation of immigrants."

TPS demonstration

In May 2017, people protested the possibility that the Trump administration may overturn the Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in front of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Miami, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Immigrant rights advocates are outraged after the Trump administration announced its "cruel and shameful" decision to end a program that has allowed some 59,000 Haitians to temporarily live and work in the United States since a catastrophic magnitude 7 earthquake ravaged the island nation in 2010.

"America will not be greater or safer by ending this program and attempting to deport those who have made their lives here and are part of the state's economic and social fabric."
—Steven Choi, New York Immigration Coalition

"America will not be greater or safer by ending this program and attempting to deport those who have made their lives here and are part of the state's economic and social fabric," said New York Immigration Coalition executive director Steven Choi, who called the decision "cruel and shameful."

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said this "is another example of the cruel indifference of the Trump administration and its continued efforts to abandon our country's history as a nation of immigrants." 

"The country is still struggling to recover from the earthquake and is in no position to receive these individuals who are already making enormous contributions to our country," Gupta added. "Congress must lead where the president has failed and find a permanent solution for Haitians, and other TPS holders, living in our country that allows them to continue contributing to the fabric of our democracy."

Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said in a statement that "extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist," and Haitians who have been living in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program have until July 22, 2019 to leave the country, or they will face deportation. The announcement follows a decision earlier this month to revoke TPS from about 2,500 Nicaraguans.

It also confirms concerns about the program that have been growing since earlier this year, when the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of DHS, concluded that protections for Haitians were no longer necessary, and former DHS Secretary John Kelly renewed their protected status for a shorter term than normal, warning them to prepare to return to Haiti. These moves by the Trump administration have caused thousands of Haitians to unlawfully cross the border to seek asylum in Canada.

Since the program was established in 1990, the U.S. has granted protections to foreign nationals for a variety of reasons, including ongoing armed conflicts, environmental disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes, and epidemics. About 300,000 people are currently living in the U.S. with TPS, and the countries currently designated for its protections, according to the DHS website, are El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Several advocates for the rights of immigrants and people of color denounced the decision on Twitter:

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