White House announces end date on residency protection for Haitians in the US

White House announces end date on residency protection for Haitians in the US

White House announces end date on residency protection for Haitians in the US

Updated 21 November 2017, 18:35 AEDT

The Trump administration will end a temporary residency program in July 2019, that was offered to about 59,000 Haitian immigrants after a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Key points:

  • Haitians will have until July 2019 to leave the US or legalise their status
  • Influx of asylum seekers into Canada has dramatically increased as many worry for their future under Mr Trump
  • Refugees from Sudan, Nicaragua and Honduras have also been given a deadline

The decision by acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke gives Haitians 18 months to return to their impoverished Caribbean country or legalise their status in the United States.

Former president Barack Obama's administration granted Haitian nationals in the US so-called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck near Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, in January 2011, killing more than 300,000 people.

The Obama administration extended the status several times after the initial designation.

In anticipation of an immigration crackdown, the number of Haitian refugees, along with refugees from other nations, illegally crossing into Canada in an attempt to find protection from deportation has increased dramatically.

In July this year, more than 3,100 people were arrested after they crossed the border illegally to file refugee claims, up from 884 in June, the Canadian Government said. In the first 15 days of August alone, an additional 3,800 asylum seekers were arrested.

Ms Duke decided to terminate the special status after a US review of the conditions in Haiti found the country had made considerable progress, a senior official with President Donald Trump's administration told a briefing.

"It was assessed overall that the extraordinary but temporary conditions that served as the basis of Haiti's most recent designation has sufficiently improved such that they no longer prevent nationals of Haiti from returning safely," the official said.

The decision to end TPS for Haitians is part of Mr Trump's broader efforts to tighten restrictions on immigration, and comes despite calls from even some fellow Republicans to continue the relief.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida published an opinion piece in the Miami Herald on Friday urging the administration to renew Haiti's TPS designation for another 18 months, citing ongoing natural disasters, health epidemics and security issues since the 2010 quake.

Haiti faced further devastation in October 2010, when Hurricane Matthew brought widespread devastation to the island nation.

About 1,000 people lost their lives and survivors were left to rebuild and recover once more.

Earlier this year Haiti was spared the full impact of Hurricane Irma, but hygiene and sanitation were once again compromised after water infrastructure was damaged in the storm.

In September, Ms Duke ended protected status for citizens of Sudan as of 2018, but extended it for citizens of South Sudan through mid-2019.

This month, Ms Duke decided to end the status for Nicaraguan immigrants, but extended the program for Honduran immigrants until July 2018.

Thousands of Nicaraguans and Hondurans received the special status in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America.

The Washington Post reported that Mr Kelly pressured Ms Duke to end the program for Hondurans, but Ms Duke denied the reports.