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Homeland Security Extends Protections For Thousands Of Haitians In U.S.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, pictured in April, is extending the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haitians in the U.S. until January 2018. But he says conditions are improving in Haiti, seven years after an earthquake killed more than 200,000 people there.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has extended for six months a program that has allowed tens of thousands of Haitians to remain in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

But Trump administration officials say they believe conditions are improving on the Caribbean island and that Haitians should make plans to return to their home country.

Some 58,000 Haitians are in the U.S. under a program known as Temporary Protected Status. The designation was extended to Haitians in the U.S. after the earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people, and was set to expire in July.

Kelly is extending the TPS designation until January 2018, but he says conditions are improving in Haiti. Seven years after the earthquake, he says, the economy is growing and only a small number of Haitians are still in camps for displaced persons.

And Kelly cites are other signs of improvement: The government has announced plans to rebuild the presidential palace, and conditions have stabilized enough that U.N. forces are preparing to leave the country.

But Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., says Haiti is still struggling.

"The reality is that in six months Haiti will still be in no position to absorb and aid 58,000 unemployed people," she said in a statement. "It will still be recovering from the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent cholera epidemic imported by U.N. peacekeepers that has killed 10,000. And it will still be struggling to rebuild the extensive damage its infrastructure incurred after Hurricane Matthew struck the island-nation last October.

"During this six-month reprieve, I invite DHS officials to join me on a trip to Haiti."

Kelly is expected to decide before January whether to renew the program once again or end it.

A report prepared by the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, James McCament, in April recommended the secretary terminate the program, but delay the effective date until January to allow "a period of orderly transition."

In a statement Monday, Kelly said, "I believe there are indications that Haiti — if its recovery from the 2010 earthquake continues at pace — may not warrant further TPS extension past January 2018. TPS as enacted in law is inherently temporary in nature, and beneficiaries should plan accordingly that this status may finally end after the extension announced today."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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