PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – President Donald Trump's administration announced it would end special protection from deportation for Haitians.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced her decision Monday to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti, which will affect more than 50,000 Haitians living in the United States, most of whom live in Florida.
According to the DHS website, there will be "a delayed effective date of 18 months to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019. This decision follows then-Secretary John F. Kelly’s announcement in May 2017 that Haiti had made considerable progress, and that the country’s designation will likely not be extended past six months."
For Peterson Exais, 17, who has been living in Miami since being injured in the country's 2010 earthquake, the news was tough to hear.
"It's very devastating hearing this news," Exais said.
Exais is now a student at the New World School for the Arts and lives with his mother, who is also a recipient of TPS. He said his family in Haiti is struggling to survive.
"They're hungry. They're not receiving food," he said. "They're not receiving clothing. It's very difficult for them. And I could not imagine myself in that situation again."
South Florida lawmakers across party lines voiced their disappointment with the DHS announcement.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., wrote in a statement that forcing Haitians "... to leave the United States would be detrimental. Almost eight years later, Haiti remains in total disarray and still requires much rebuilding."
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., tweeted that the decision was "unconscionable."
"Ultimately, we need a permanent legislative solution," he said.