(CN) – Nepalese nationals allowed into the United States after a catastrophic 2015 earthquake will have to leave by next summer, Homeland Security officials announced Thursday.
The quake killed nearly 9,000 and injured at least another 20,000. But in a statement Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the devastation in Nepal is “no longer substantial” to allow approximately 9,000 Nepalese nationals to keep the U.S. residency permits they were granted as part of temporary protected status. They have until June 24, 2019, to leave or be deported.
Thursday’s decision indicates that it is the determination of the Department of Homeland Security that Nepal can now “safely” accept returning nationals.
“The secretary determined that the disruption of living conditions in Nepal from the April 2015 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that served as the basis for its TPS designation have decreased to a degree that they should no longer be regarded as substantial,” the department said in a statement. “Thus, as required under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”
Temporary Protected Status was always intended to be just that — temporary. Conditions in the home country are periodically re-evaluated, and DHS decides whether to renew or end the program. After Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, for example, 50,000 Haitians in the U.S. saw their status renewed several times before the Trump administration finally revoked it earlier this year.
Nepalese nationals are the latest group to see their protected status revoked since President Donald Trump took office. Two hundred thousand Salvadorans have also lost temporary protected status. Marching orders are expected in July for 57,000 Hondurans.
Last month, a group of Haitian TPS holders from Florida and New York sued President Trump and Homeland Security, alleging the decision to rescind their status was “racially motivated” rather than based on U.S. immigration law.
There’s already resistance to this latest termination as well.
“This is unconscionable,” Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., said in a statement Thursday.
“It’s only been three years since the catastrophic 2015 earthquake that leveled neighborhoods and entire villages across Nepal and cost 9,000 people their lives,” Atkinson said. “By the Nepali government’s own report, the massive undertaking of rebuilding the lost public and private infrastructure… is really just beginning. There is not sufficient water, food, health care or sanitation for Nepalis in Nepal, let alone to accommodate another 9,000 TPS holders and their families”
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. partnered with Adhikaar, a Queens-based nonprofit for the Nepali-speaking community, on a March study called “Rebuilding From Rubble: Why TPS Is Needed for Nepal.”
Jill Marie Bussey, the organization’s advocacy director, concurred with Atkinson.
“The facts in the case of Nepal are crystal clear and under the law, the administration was compelled to extend TPS,” Bussey said in a statement.
“A termination of TPS for Nepal instead of extension leads us to conclude that this outcome, like the TPS decisions before it, isn’t based on the law,” Bussey added. “Nor is it based on protecting American families or our economy or regional security. This is part of the administration’s political agenda to end humanitarian immigration.”
Representatives for the Department of Homeland Security have not responded to a request for comment late Thursday afternoon.