A humanitarian program that has given residency to over 59,000 Haitians has been ground to a halt by the Trump administration.
Haitians who obtained Temporary Protected Status had come to the United States to live and work after the 2010 earthquake that ravaged their home country.
Now Haitians with the temporary status will have to leave the U.S. by July 2019 or face deportation.
The decision has thrown many Haitian communities in New York, Florida and other places into dismay. It has also worried other foreigners who currently have temporary protections.
In all, approximately 320,000 people benefit from the program which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. This latest cut follows one last month that saw protections ended for 2,500 Nicaraguans.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and is still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake. Many there rely heavily on the money expatriates send home from the U.S.
The government of Haiti had asked Trump to extend the protected status.
Haitians are the second largest group of foreigners who benefitted from protected status. Their protections were extended several times by former President Barack Obama.
The Trump administration wants to have more control over immigration and has said that these benefits were meant to be temporary but have turned into a permanent benefit.
The Department of Homeland Security said that they met with Haitian government officials as well as Haitian communities in the U.S. and decided to let the protections end.
“Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent,” the statement they released read. “Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.”
In May the protections were extended by then-Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly but only for 6 months, which is far shorter than normal. At the time he said Haitians “need to start thinking about returning.”
This latest decision was made on Monday by Elaine Duke, the acting secretary and set a 2019 date in order to give people time to make the necessary arrangements.