The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it will be lifting protections for over 50,000 Hondurans, giving them twenty months to either leave the country or face deportation. The Hondurans received temporary protection status (TPS), giving them the ability to live and work in the U.S. legally, after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the island in 1999.
TPS is a humanitarian initiative created by Congress in 1990 to shield immigrants from deportation to countries plagued by war, natural disaster or civil strife. The U.S. granted TPS to over 86,000 Hondurans in 1999. It is believed that about 50,000 of them still rely on that protection status to stay in the U.S.
“The Secretary determined that the disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch that served as the basis for its TPS designation has decreased to a degree that it should no longer be regarded as substantial,” the statement from DHS read.
“Since 1999, conditions in Honduras that resulted from the hurricane have notably improved. Additionally, since the last review of the country’s conditions in October 2016, Honduras has made substantial progress in post-hurricane recovery and reconstruction from the 1998 Hurricane Mitch.”
According to DHS, the Hondurans will have 18 months to leave the U.S. or precure another legal status. “Honduran citizens in the United States who benefited from TPS may still receive other protections under our immigration system for which they are eligible,” the agency added.
Critics of The Trump administration decried the move, arguing Honduras is still one of the most violent countries in the world. Its troubling political climate only adds to its instability, they say. The country held an election last year, but its legitimacy was shot down by the Organization of American States, along with other observers.
The news comes only six months after DHS announced that it would also be lifting protections for tens of thousands Salvadorans, Haitians and Nepalis. The groups will have 12 to 18 months to seek other legal status or leave the country.
Despite rolling back protection for those groups, DHS Secretary Nielsen choose to extend protections for over 7,000 immigrants from the war-torn country of Syria.
Proponents of the changes argue that TPS was always meant to be temporary and that the program has turned into a permanent benefit program for hundreds of thousands of people.
Photo by Debbie Larson via NOAA