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Trump Administration Weighing Future Of 50,000 Haitians In U.S.


Many Haitians living in this country are on edge wondering if they'll be able to stay here. They're waiting to hear if the Trump administration will allow them to continue what's called temporary protected status. The program has given tens of thousands of Haitians shelter in the U.S. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: An estimated 50,000 Haitians are currently in the U.S. under temporary protected status. That's a designation ordered by President Obama in 2010, shortly after the earthquake that left more than 300,000 Haitians dead and their country in rubble. It allows Haitians to remain here until they can return home safely.

TPS has been renewed three times since then as Haiti has reeled from a series of disasters, including a cholera epidemic and, last year, Hurricane Matthew. The current designation runs out next month. And a Trump administration official has recommended not renewing it. In Miami, Marleine Bastien says that news sent fear through the Haitian community.

MARLEINE BASTIEN: I have TPS recipients walking into my office wanting to know what to do. Should I put my house on sale? Should I close my business? What should I do? It is really creating a sense of panic.

ALLEN: In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last month, the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Haiti has made significant progress since the 2010 earthquake. In the letter, James McCament recommends ending temporary protected status in January, allowing an additional six months to give everyone time to adjust.

Speaking over a scratchy phone line from Haiti, where he helps run a health care provider, Paul Farmer said there has been some progress. But an estimated 40,000 Haitians are still living in tents and makeshift shelters. He says the cholera epidemic is still not under control. The justification for lifting the protected status, that conditions have ameliorated, he said, isn't borne out on the ground.

PAUL FARMER: I think you'd be hard-pressed to say that amelioration is the right word, maybe patchy improvements.

ALLEN: If the Trump administration ends TPS, it will be hard on Haitians who'll be forced to return home, also hard on their friends and relatives in Haiti who depend on remittances from the U.S. Marleine Bastien with Haitian Women of Miami says because many children are U.S. citizens, it may be most difficult for families.

BASTIEN: I had a parent who came with tears in his voice talking about his two little girls who are doing so well in an elementary school. One of them recently won a spelling bee. He was so proud and wondering, what will happen to them?

ALLEN: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has to decide by May 23 whether to extend temporary protected status or send 50,000 Haitians back home. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC LAU'S "IT'S RAINY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.