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Trump admin debates future of Haiti refugees

Dieu Nalio Chery / AP

The Trump administration may be using the criminal status of Haitian immigrants as part of its decision on whether to extend a program designed to allow safe harbor for those affected by the 2010 Haitian earthquake, per internal emails obtained by the AP.

The program: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) — a branch of Homeland Security — can grant "Temporary Protected Status" to immigrants, legal or illegal, from countries affected by war or disaster, allowing them to remain in the U.S. indefinitely. There are currently 50,000 Haitian immigrants in the U.S. under the TPS designation.

Why it matters: In the past, the decision to extend a TPS designation was based solely on whether conditions in that country had improved; USCIS' acting director recommended last month that the program could expire, stating that Haiti's humanitarian crisis had ended despite its political instability. But the Trump administration's apparent willingness to consider the actions of a few wrongdoers to decide the humanitarian future of tens of thousands is a marked departure from prior U.S. policy.

QuoteWe should also find any reports of criminal activity by any individual with TPS. Even though it's only a snapshot and not representative of the entire situation, we need more than 'Haiti is really poor' stories. Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, the USCIS head of policy and strategy