The Trump administration has reportedly been looking into the criminal backgrounds of Haitians who are in the U.S. under a special program which is up for renewal.
Called Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, it was instituted by the Obama administration in 2010 as a way to allow Haitian residents to legally live in the U.S. until the country recovered from a massive earthquake that left the island nation devastated, notes NBC News.
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According to the Associated Press, or AP, which initially broke the story based on internal emails it had obtained, officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wanted to know the crimes that had been committed by these Haitian immigrants as well as the approximate number who were receiving public benefits despite not being eligible to do so.
The AP report goes on to indicate that Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly is considering various criteria to decide whether or not to extend the program, and it is unclear what impact the criminal check will have on participants.
However, the inquiry has been called a “witch hunt” by one activist, with Marleine Bastien telling the Miami Herald that “It is disheartening to hear that instead of renewing TPS for theses hardworking families who are at risk of losing their jobs, Secretary Kelly has decided to go on a witch hunt for criminals.”
She added that “Haitian nationals with criminal records do not qualify for TPS or benefits.”
Some also argue that the conditions in Haiti have not yet improved enough to warrant an end to the program, with reports of disease outbreaks, housing problems, and food shortages, among other serious issues, notes NBC News.
Around 58,000 Haitians are currently enrolled in the program, which, without renewal, will end on July 22.