Haitians awaiting deportation from the United States were given unusually good news on Thursday. After Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on the Caribbean island last week, the United States has temporarily suspended the deportations of Haitians.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson released a statement Thursday making it clear that the U.S. plans to resume deportation flights soon, and will continue to prioritize the deportation of Haitians attempting to enter the U.S. without permission. According to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. immigration court judges have currently flagged 2,000 Haitians for deportation.
“We will have to deal with that situation, address it, be sympathetic to the plight of the people of Haiti as a result of the hurricane,” he said.
Johnson released his statement from Mexico City where he is discussing immigration and security issues with top Mexican officials. A large number of Haitians have entered Tijuana and other Mexican border towns without valid papers.
After the 2010 earthquake that destroyed parts of Haiti, the U.S. gave many Haitians a special immigration approval allowing them to stay in the U.S. The U.S. also stopped deporting Haitians that year, because of the dangers and unsuitable conditions they faced at home.
The following year, the U.S. resumed deportations of Haitians with criminal convictions, but continued to allow the majority illegal immigrants to stay. That policy was abruptly reversed Sept. 22, when Johnson directed immigration officials to begin widespread deportations of Haitians.
Haiti was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew. Up to 1,000 people were reported dead as of Sunday while an emergency appeal has been made for nearly $120 million in aid. The UN humanitarian agency in Geneva said 750,000 people in southwest Haiti were in need of “life-saving assistance and protection.