Newly released internal documents are raising questions about the Trump administration’s decision to end protections for tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants — and whether the argument that the protections were no longer merited was valid.
Under President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security has been aggressive in ending a number of temporary protected status designations that have been on the books, in some cases, for decades.
Roughly 300,000 people who have lived in the US with legal permission, most of whom have been here for upward of 15-20 years, could have their status pulled in the coming months as the protections expire. In the case of Haiti, nearly 60,000 immigrants are set to see their status expire next year.
The justification from the administration for ending the protections has been that by law, when the conditions from the original disaster that triggered the protections have improved, they must expire. DHS has been clear that it does not believe it can look at the totality of conditions in the country to factor in its decision making.
But the documents released Tuesday as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit raise questions about whether DHS was accurately interpreting information in drawing those conclusions.
The documents suggest DHS contradicted its own staff assessment of Haiti when it opted to end TPS for the country, which was put in place after the devastating 2010 earthquake. The documents also include email correspondence showing Haiti’s deep concern about ending TPS for the country.
While many of the documents are redacted, the release includes a report prepared by staff about the conditions in Haiti, which was included as part of a recommendation by the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Director L. Francis Cissna wrote in several instances that conditions in Haiti have improved enough from the 2010 earthquake to lift TPS. But the attached report in many cases paints a much more dire picture than the data points Cissna highlighted. Both documents were sent to then-acting Secretary Elaine Duke and resulted in her decision to end the program with an 18-month wind-down period.