Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The Trump administration announced Monday it will end an immigration program that allowed thousands of Haitians to stay in the United States after their country was ravaged by an earthquake in 2010.
More than 50,000 Haitians have been living in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status designation, which gives legal immigration status to people from countries impacted by natural disasters. Some Haitians received this status after the 2010 earthquake on the island nation that killed more than 200,000 people and obliterated the economy.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said those people will now have until July 22, 2019, to obtain other legal immigration status or return to Haiti.
"The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country's original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals, as required by statute," the DHS said in the announcement. "Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated."
Critics of the decision said Haiti is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake and cannot take in a large influx of people.
"It's going to be a disaster for the 58,000 families in the U.S. and a disaster for Haiti. Clearly they are not making decisions based on facts on the ground, but rather politics," Marleine Bastien, a South Florida Haitian activist, told the Miami Herald. "This is purely unacceptable."
Both senators from Florida, where a large number of Haitian immigrants reside, have supported extending the TPS status.
"There is no reason to send 60,000 Haitians back to a country that cannot provide for them," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., tweeted Monday. "This decision today by DHS is unconscionable. And I am strongly urging the administration to reconsider. Ultimately, we need a permanent legislative solution."
"If TPS is not extended, Haitians sent home will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and low prospects for employment," he wrote. "Failure to renew the TPS designation will weaken Haiti's economy and impede its ability to recover completely and improve its security."
Monday's announcement marked the second time the Trump administration announced an end to TPS status for people from a particular country. On Nov. 6, the DHS announced an end to TPS for Nicaraguans who received the status after Hurricane Mitch in 1999. The immigration status had been extended numerous times by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.