WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. government will temporarily halt deportation flights to Haiti as the nation recovers from Hurricane Matthew, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday.
Johnson said department officials with work with the Haitian government to resume flights “as soon as possible.”
He said the temporary halt of flights to the country won’t change the U.S. government’s newly enacted policy to detain Haitians recently stopped at the border and put them into removal proceedings.
Johnson’s announcement came a day after he suggested the detention policy would be put on hold while Haiti dealt with the aftermath of the massive hurricane.
“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,” Johnson said during a visit to Mexico City. “But after that situation, after that condition has been addressed, we intend to resume the policy change that I brought about several weeks ago.”
Johnson announced the plan to detain and deport newly arriving Haitians on Sept. 21. Before that, such immigrants were being allowed into the United States on what is called humanitarian parole. Deportations were halted to Haiti for most immigrants after a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Thousands of Haitian immigrants have been stopped at the border in the last 12 months, compared with just a few hundred the year before. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana told lawmakers last month that officials in Central America advised her on a recent trip that as many as 40,000 Haitians were headed north to the United States.
She said the estimates of Haitians headed to the United States contributed to the decision to renew deportations last month.