With the decision earlier this month to end TPS for 50,000 Hondurans living in the U.S., the Trump administration has basically terminated the TPS program.
The Temporary Protected Status Program allows individuals to remain in the U.S. and grants them work authorization, whether they entered legally or not. TPS is granted to citizens from countries that have been affected by armed conflict, natural disaster or other devastation.
Countries are granted the designation and the Secretary of Homeland Security can renew it for six, 12 or 18 months. There is no limit to the number of renewals a country can receive.
In January, the Trump administration ended TPS status for some 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador who had been living in the U.S. since 2001 after a pair of catastrophic earthquakes struck that country. That decision came just weeks after the program was ended for 45,000 Haitians. Nicaraguans lost their protections last year.
Earlier this month the Department of Homeland Security announced it was lifting protections for over 50,000 Hondurans, giving them eighteen months to either leave the country or face deportation. The Hondurans received temporary protection status after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the country in 1999.
The U.S. originally granted TPS to over 86,000 Hondurans that year. It is believed that about 50,000 of them still rely on that protection status to stay in the U.S.
Immigrant-rights groups harshly criticized the move at the time.
“Deportation will be a death sentence for some Hondurans, and the fact that the White House can know this and still proceed today with this reckless policy decision to terminate their TPS status is deplorable,” said Amanda Baran, Consultant to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
“Hondurans have become deeply rooted in US society since they were forced to flee the dangerous and disastrous conditions of their native country, which still have not yet improved. Promising Hondurans relief only to abandon that promise—when we know the danger that awaits their return—is unconscionable.”
“Once again the Administration has taken away the legal status of another community without blinking an eye. It is a travesty that while we have Central American families at the US/Mexico border seeking asylum to protect their lives and future, the Trump Administration cancels the protection from deportation for tens of thousands of Honduran families,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
“There is clear evidence Honduras is facing dire conditions and uprooting TPS recipients from what is now their home in the U.S. is cruel and unnecessary punishment.”
In an interview with NPR last week, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly indicated a desire to see citizenship status extended to TPS beneficiaries. “I think we should fold all of the TPS people that have been here for a considerable period of time and find a way for them to be [on] a path to citizenship,” he told NPR.
In a separate interview, also with NPR, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson also seemed to indicate a desire to see TPS recipients stay, but put the onus on squarely on Congress’ shoulders to enact legislation that would allow them to do so.
“Congress should pass a law to give permanent status to those who’ve had Temporary Protected Status. I am not going to bow to political pressure, however, to break the law to do Congress’s job. They need to do it,” she said.
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.
A secondary issue is the effect returning tens of thousands of immigrants back to their countries of origin would have on those nations, most of which still struggle economically, as well as politically.
“I am concerned that then-Secretary Tillerson recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) terminate the TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras in deliberate disregard of the counsel and expertise of State Department officials in Washington and at the U.S. Embassies in all three countries,” said Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in a memo sent to the White House on Friday.
Reached for comment, an official from the State Department would tell ITN only, “All relevant input received from different parts of the State Department was considered in developing Secretary Tillerson’s recommendation to the DHS Secretary. We cannot comment further on internal deliberations.”
DHS says that those who benefited from TPS may still receive other protections under the U.S. immigration system for which they are eligible.
Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr