WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will resume deporting Haitians who’ve entered the country illegally, ending a six-year moratorium on deportations following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
In a statement released Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said, “the situation in Haiti has improved sufficiently to permit the U.S. government to remove Haitian nationals on a more regular basis, consistent with the practice for nationals from other nations.”
Johnson’s order was “effective immediately” on Wednesday. Deportation will be prioritized for Haitians who are convicted felons, who are convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors and those “apprehended at or between ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.”
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ceased deportations of Haitians after the 2010 earthquake. In 2011, ICE resumed the deportation of Haitians “on a limited basis” — such as those convicted of a serious crime or who posed a national security threat, Johnson added.
Johnson wrote that consistent with U.S. law, Haitians who say they fear returning to Haiti will be screened by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officer.
“Those determined to have a credible fear will be referred to immigration court for removal proceedings where they may apply for asylum or other forms of relief,” Johnson added. “Haitian nationals who have been continuously residing in the United States since January 12, 2011 and currently hold Temporary Protected Status may remain in the United States and are not subject to removal.”
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 killed up to 316,000 people and displaced 1.5 million people initially.