The United States will end the special protections for Haitian immigrants implemented in the wake of a devastating 2010 earthquake and begin regular deportations, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday.
In a move that could send many back to an impoverished and dangerous country, the United States would now take steps to deport newly arrived Haitian migrants who are said to not have a case for seeking asylum, according to Department of Homeland Security officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
More than 5,000 Haitian immigrants have entered the United States without visas this fiscal year through Oct. 1, said Department of Homeland Security officials, up from 339 in fiscal year 2015.
Haitians who arrive on Thursday or later will be subject to "expedited removal" in which they are detained and ordered deported if they do not have a credible claim to asylum, Department of Homeland Security officials said.
Under previous protections, only Haitians who have been convicted of a serious crime or pose a national security threat have been ordered deported.
However, deportations could prove to be difficult as a result of Haiti's inability to quickly produce the necessary documents due to the country's economic and political crisis.
U.S. immigration authorities along the Mexico-California border have struggled to find enough resources to interview and temporarily detain Haitian migrants, most of whom are traveling from Brazil.
Many Haitians who found work in Brazil through a visa program offered after the earthquake are starting to leave because of Brazil's economic downturn and the shrinking work opportunities caused by the end of the summer Olympics.
Haitians who have been in the United States since January 12, 2011 and have Temporary Protected Status granted to earthquake victims will not be subject to deportation, Johnson said in a statement.
"The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State are working with the Government of Haiti and other key partners to resume removals in as humane and minimally disruptive a manner as possible," Johnson said.
Johnson argued that "the situation in Haiti has improved sufficiently to permit the U.S. government to remove Haitian nationals on a more regular basis."
However the country is still struggling to get back on its feet after the earthquake.
Haiti is currently administered by an interim regime led by acting President Jocelerme Privert after Michel Martelly stepped down as president without a successor.
Privert told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday that Haiti's October presidential election will be important to easing poverty and the country's migration crisis.