59,000 Haitians are currently living under protected status in the U.S., but the L.A. Times reports that the current administration is giving them 18 months to leave the country. More than 30,000 of the Haitians affected by the order live in Florida with another large concentration in New York City.
Haitians who enter the country illegally have currently benefitted from a program called Temporary Protected Status, which Congress created during the 1990s to avoid sending large numbers of people back to areas suffering from wars or natural disasters. Haitians got this protection in 2010 after a powerful earthquake devastated the island, which has long been among the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere.
In May, a warning shot was fired regarding this move, with John F. Kelly, who was the secretary of Homeland Security at the time, said that conditions in Haiti had improved enough that the U.S. would be unlikely to continue extending the temporary protection. At the time, he extended Haitians’ protected status for six months, but urged them to prepare to leave the U.S. One may recall that a similar protection was rescinded for Nicaraguans a few weeks ago, and now, it is applied to Haitians.
Immigration advocates have said it is wrong and unfair to consider sending large numbers of immigrants back to troubled countries, particularly Haiti. A report by the United Nations in January said the country is still mired in poverty and struggling to recover from a legacy of political upheaval and serial disasters, with about 2.5 million people still needing help. There is also the question of how the upheaval of the lives of these people will play out, especially for their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens.
“This administration has no plan in place for the children who are U.S. citizens but may now lose their parents and caregivers to deportation,” said Amanda Baran of the Washington office of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an advocacy group for immigrants. Immigrants affected by the order have also expressed their own concern.
“I wanted to come here for a better life. There, they kill people for nothing; they kidnap people for nothing,” said Fabiola Silias of New York, who says she fled unrest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2006. Silias, 41, who now works as a home health worker, says she has an application for political asylum.