The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had removed Haiti from a list of countries whose citizens are permitted to apply for low-skilled work visas, Reuters reported Wednesday night.
In a regulatory filing, DHS cited “high levels of fraud and abuse” from Haitians who use the program as well as a “high rate of overstaying the terms” from the visa recipients.
Visa overstays among Haitians in the 2016 fiscal year were around 40 percent, according to a DHS report last year.
Just a few dozen immigrants from Haiti use H-2A and H-2B visas each year, according to DHS data. Haiti was added to the list of countries whose residents are eligible to apply for the visas after a 2010 earthquake devastated the country.
Advocates of the program say the Trump administration has taken away a lifeline for struggling residents of the island nation.
“They’re just cutting off the most economically beneficial visa for the Haitian people,” Sarah Williamson, founder of a Virginia firm that spearheaded the program told Reuters.
“Even though not many people have been able to avail themselves of it, it’s been hugely transformational for those who have participated.”
President Trump was accused of racism by Democrats last week after comments he reportedly made about the country being a “shithole” during a meeting with lawmakers surfaced in The Washington Post.
In an interview with Reuters published earlier Wednesday, Trump defended his relationship with the country and its people.
“I love the people. There’s a tremendous warmth,” Trump said. “And they’re very hard-working people.”