U.S. Must Find Long-term Solution for TPS holders from Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador
Washington, DC— On November 6, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will not renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaraguans, but has made no decision for Honduras, automatically extending the program for another six months. This means an estimated 2,500 Nicaraguans will lose TPS designation by January 25, 2019, and, in turn, the legal status granted by the program. The TPS program temporarily allows those fleeing countries afflicted by war or natural disasters to live and work legally in the United States, although it is not a pathway to citizenship. Alongside the decision to end TPS for Haiti, the possibility remains that DHS will terminate the program for Honduras and El Salvador sometime next year; an outcome that would unnecessarily throw the lives of an estimated 300,000 people into upheaval, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
“This is an inhumane and unfortunate decision for the Nicaraguans who’ve built a life for themselves in the United States under TPS. Recipients of TPS are law-abiding, hard-working members of communities across the United States, and many of them have called this country home for years. The prospect that the Trump administration could eventually expel hundreds of thousands of other people alongside the Nicaraguans, in their efforts to come off as ‘tough’ on immigration, is frightening,” said WOLA Program Director Geoff Thale.
The lack of a decision on Honduras was unexpected, given recent reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had told DHS that conditions in the region no longer justified extending TPS for the Central American nations. The DHS announcement said that more time was needed “to obtain and assess supplemental information pertaining to country conditions in Honduras” before making a decision. Alongside El Salvador, Honduras ranks among the most violent countries in the world not at war, due to the government’s inability to contain gang violence and organized crime. Additionally, as is the case with Haiti, both El Salvador and Honduras are heavily dependent on remittances that TPS beneficiaries send from the United States, meaning ending TPS will exacerbate the poverty and lack of opportunity driving many to migrate from this region.
“Hondurans, Haitians, and Salvadorans have a tense wait ahead of them. The DHS would do well to consider what on-the-ground conditions are really like in these countries before moving to end TPS to score political points. Forcing TPS recipients to go back to countries that struggle with high levels of violence and insecurity is wrong and could very well spark another wave of migration from the region,” said Thale.
Both Republicans and Democrats in the Congress have previously called on the Department of Homeland Security to extend TPS, citing the serious consequences that failing to do so would have on the fragile economies of Central America, as well as the humanitarian impact on TPS recipients living in the United States. According to a study published by the University of Kansas earlier this year, over half of TPS holders from El Salvador and Honduras have lived in the United States for twenty years. With the end of the pending TPS designations, Congress should take up and approve legislation that provides these beneficiaries with a path to legal status.