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Washington • The Trump administration has granted a six-month extension to about 58,000 Haitian immigrants who fled their country, or remained in the United States, after a 2010 earthquake devastated parts of the already depressed nation.
But U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, the first Hatian-American to serve in Congress, says the government should tack on another year to the deportation delay for those refugees because Haiti is still struggling to recover.
"While I am pleased that the administration granted an extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, I am not convinced six months is sufficient," Love said in a statement. "The administration claims that conditions in Haiti have measurably improved. But after working with Utah-based Operation Underground Railroad and coordinating with fellow members on the Terrorism and Illicit Financing subcommittee, evidence indicates that the country still faces significant challenges."
Operation Underground Railroad, a nongovernment entity, is aimed at helping rescue human trafficking and sex trafficking victims worldwide.
Love, a member of the House Financial Services subcommittee, says a cholera outbreak, a food crisis and slow recovery from the earthquake as well as the impact of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 shows the refugees deserve a longer break before being sent back to their home country.
Last week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced the six-month extension of the protected status through Jan. 22. It had been set to expire on July 23.
"Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010, and I'm proud of the role the United States has played during this time in helping our Haitian friends," the secretary said in a statement. "The Haitian economy continues to recover and grow, and 96 percent of people displaced by the earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those camps. Even more encouraging is that over 98 percent of these camps have closed."
Kelly also noted that the Haitian government plans to rebuild its presidential residence and the United Nations has withdrawn its stabilization mission in the country.
He said refugees from the country allowed to stay under the order should begin to prepare to go home.
"We plan to continue to work closely with the Haitian government, including assisting the government in proactively providing travel documents for its citizens," he said.
Love, who was born in New York City but whose parents immigrated from Haiti, says she will urge the Trump administration to push for longer protection and will partner with Utah-based organizations who are helping refugees and improve conditions in Haiti.
This marks one of a handful of times she has weighed in on conditions in Haiti. As an example, last year she urged the U.N. to respond to the cholera outbreak.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also pushing for extending the protective status for a longer period.
"Haiti continues to be one of the world's poorest countries and the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere," she said last week. "While it's a positive step that the department extended temporary protected status to Haitians for six months, I'm concerned that Secretary Kelly indicated that it would not be extended again. There's simply no guarantee that the situation in Haiti will improve significantly during that time."