Administration cancels temporary protected status for Haitians; allows 18-month grace period

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The Trump administration says it will end the temporary status that shelters almost 60,000 Haitians from deportation, saying the island nation has sufficiently recovered from devastating disasters to take its citizens back.

More than 30,000 of the Haitians affected by the order live in Florida, with another large concentration in New York City.

To allow for an orderly transition, the effective date of the termination of TPS for Haiti will be delayed 18 months.

Earlier this month, in terminating the TPS program for thousands of Nicaraguans who fled to the USA after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and deferring a decision on 57,000 similarly affected Hondurans until July, the acting secretary of homeland security, Elaine Duke, acknowledged the "difficulties" families would face and called on Congress to find a permanent solution.

As part of a general crackdown on illegal immigration, the government has been deporting Haitians who do not have temporary protected status, raising protests from pro-immigrant groups.

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In a statement, the DHS said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke determined the conditions caused by the 2010 natural disaster no longer exist and under the law, the current TPS designation must be terminated. Last May, federal officials had extended the temporary status through January 22, 2018.

Officials pointed to several signs of improvement in Haiti, including the reduction of internally displaced persons by 97 percent, the formation of a stable national government, and the withdrawal of United Nations military personnel in 2015.

The move opens the door for the immigrants' potential repatriation, but the Department of Homeland Security said the 18-month delay "will provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible".

Holden Pierre, 24, of Milton, who has lived in the United States under the program for 17 years, called Monday's decision a "victory".

Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, last week unveiled new legislation to protect undocumented immigrants living under temporary protected status.

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Both the Nicaraguans and Hondurans have been shielded from deportation since a devastating 1998 hurricane hit.

Most of those with such status arrived here illegally.

Santcha Etienne, center, and others protest in front of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Broward County to urge the Department of Homeland Security to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitian immigrants on May 21, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Trump administration officials said they were encouraged by the progress Haiti has made, and thus likely not to get another extension.

The group called on Congress to change the law to allow immigrants now covered by temporary status to stay.

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A senior official countered that the 18-month "wind-down is a lengthy time to allow families with US-born children to make decisions about what to do, and make arrangements". Obama renewed it every time it ran out.

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