Trump’s decision on Haitian immigrants: What does it mean?

President Donald Trump will end a special designation for nearly 59,000 Haitians that allowed them to live in the United States without threat of deportation after the 2010 earthquake.

Haitians benefitting from Temporary Protected Status now have 18 months to leave the United States or adjust their status. They risk deportation if they choose to stay in the country without TPS protection.

The news comes on the heels of the administration’s earlier decision to end Nicaragua’s Temporary Protected Status designation. The Trump administration said it needed more time to review additional information on Honduras to determine if it should continue on the designation list.

The decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Haiti provoked disapproval from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

"Similar to my disagreement with the decision to end TPS for Nicaraguan nationals, I am strongly opposed to and disagree with the decision to end #TPS for Haiti," tweeted Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., whose state is home to a large Haitian population.

"Ending #TPS for our Haitian neighbors is irresponsible - bad for our economy, bad for our communities, and bad for our American values," tweeted Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.

In light of the administration’s latest decision on Haiti, here’s an overview of the protection, how many people benefit from it and what lawmakers have claimed about it.

Temporary Protected Status designation

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security may designate a country for Temporary Protected Status when conditions in the foreign country (such as civil war, environmental disasters and epidemics) prevent its nationals from returning safely or when the country cannot handle the return of its nationals. The designation is reviewed periodically, and DHS decides to extend or terminate it based on the country’s progress and conditions.

The countries currently designated for protection are: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. About 440,000 people benefit from the status, most are from Central America and Haiti.

Immigrants living in the United States illegally as well as individuals on a valid nonimmigrant visa may apply for Temporary Protected Status if they meet certain criteria. The temporary status does not lead to lawful permanent resident status, but some beneficiaries may be eligible to adjust their status through family or employer sponsorship.

Individuals under Temporary Protected Status may apply for a work permit and are protected from deportation during their country’s designation period.

Haiti’s situation

In March, Republican and Democratic lawmakers asked the Trump administration to extend Haiti’s designation, arguing that the country had not recovered from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010 and subsequent natural disasters, that it was not ready to take back its nationals and that Haitians contributed to the U.S. economy.

Estimates vary, but the earthquake is reported to have left at least 220,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and more than 1.3 million displaced. (Haiti’s government placed the death toll at 316,000.)

DHS announced in May it would extend Haiti’s designation through Jan. 22, 2018, but would review at least 60 days prior to that end date whether to issue another extension, re-designate the country or terminate its status.

On Nov. 20, DHS said it had reviewed the conditions upon which Haiti’s original designation was based and whether those conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of its nationals.

"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," said a statement from DHS. "Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated."

DHS said the number of people displaced in Haiti by the 2010 earthquake has decreased by 97 percent and that "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."

Three days after the earthquake, former President Barack Obama’s administration announced TPS designation for Haitian nationals who had been in the United States as of Jan. 12, 2010. (TPS was later re-designated to apply to Haitians who continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 12, 2011.)

DHS on Nov. 20 said Haiti’s designation would end in 18 months — July 22, 2019 —  to give Haitians time "to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible." The 18 months would also give Haiti time to prepare for their return, DHS said.

Claim of GDP loss if Temporary Protected Status ended

Earlier in November, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, claimed ending Temporary Protected Status and deporting legal workers would cost the United States about $164 billion in GDP over a decade. His claim focused on beneficiaries from Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador.

We found Castro’s claim to be Half True. His statement was based on a report from a left-leaning organization whose calculation included immigrants’ potential lost earnings and industry chain reactions. Another group’s estimates, without industry output calculations, found a lower GDP loss of $45.2 billion.

Immigration advocates have condemned the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Haiti and have called on lawmakers to enact a permanent legislative solution for Haitian immigrants.

"Tonight's #Haiti #TPS announcement underscores need to pass a legislative solution for those who have been in our nation, working productively to improve their lives + abiding by the rule of law," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., in a Nov. 20 tweet.