By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - The U.S. decision to end from July 2019 a scheme that protects some 59,000 Haitians from deportation from the United States was viewed positively on Tuesday in Haiti, where many were pleased that the program would last for another 20 months.
In the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, the U.S. decision was viewed less as an unfortunate end, but instead, as an unexpected extension.
"(The) Haitian presidency welcomes with a lot of satisfaction the renewal of TPS and thanks President Trump's administration," said Lucien Jura, spokesman for Haitian President Jovenel Moise.
Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, allows nationals of certain countries, often facing armed conflict or natural disasters, to temporarily remain and work in the United States if they are already there.
After the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake, the administration of former President Barack Obama granted Haitian immigrants in the United States TPS for 18 months.
The status has been extended several times since.
But on Monday, senior Trump administration officials said the government would extend it for one final time, from its current end date of January 2018.
After that date, Haitians have 18 months to return to their impoverished Caribbean country or legalize their status. The decision is part of U.S. President Donald Trump's broader efforts to tighten immigration.
On the streets of Port-au-Prince, the mood was jubilant.
"Praise the Lord! God is great!" said Josiane Nemorin, who was walking on the streets of the Bel-Air slum. "I have been praying everyday to ask my Lord to touch the heart of President Trump so that he might renew the TPS."
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke decided to terminate the special status after a U.S. review of the conditions in Haiti found the country had made considerable progress, a senior Trump administration official told a briefing.
Joel Casamajor, a 27-year-old living in the poor district of Martissant, said he relied on the money sent back by relatives living in the United States.
"I could not believe my ears. I felt relieved when I heard the news," he said. "This would have been a big disaster for my family if this had happened, because I am not working."
However, not all were happy.
"Many seem to forget that the measure means that TPS is over for Haitians," said Carl Hans Joseph, a sociology student. "My concern is what is going to happen when the extension is actually over."
(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva, Writing by Gabriel Stargardter, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)