(CNN) - The Trump administration has announced it will end the Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti by July 2019, potentially forcing tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants to either leave the US or live in the shadows.
TPS is an immigration status allowed by law for certain countries experiencing dire conditions, such as a natural disaster, epidemic or war. It protects individuals from deportation and authorizes them to work in the US.
In May, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who now serves as White House chief of staff, extended the protection from deportation for Haitians for an additional six months. When Kelly temporarily extended the status for Haiti, which had received the designation after an earthquake devastated the island in 2010, he warned the nearly 58,700 recipients living in America to prepare their affairs for going back to Haiti or to find another way to apply to stay in the United States.
"Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, Acting Secretary Duke determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist," a statement from the Department of Homeland Security said. "Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated."
According to DHS, the department can designate a country for Temporary Protected Status when it has been affected by "conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately."
This can include situations like civil wars or natural disasters. Individuals who are already in the United States from the designated countries are eligible and are then protected from deportation.
When their protected status expires, individuals living in the US under those protections will revert to the status they would have had otherwise or the status they applied for in the interim, meaning thousands could become undocumented overnight if they do not leave or qualify for residency another way.
According to Monday's announcement by DHS, "the termination of TPS for Haiti will be delayed 18 months," in order to ensure a smooth transition.
Earlier this month, DHS announced that acting Secretary Elaine Duke had decided to end the Temporary Protected Status for Nicaragua but was unable to come to a decision on Honduras.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez blasted the Haiti move on Twitter, saying that "Donald Trump's cruelty knows no bounds."
"As the proud son of two immigrants who fled an oppressive regime, I'm disgusted at the President's heartlessness," Perez said in a statement shared by the DNC. "With this decision, Trump is tearing families apart and turning his back on the values that have made our country great."
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