WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
10 May 2018 | Press Release

Administration Ignored Warnings that Deporting Hundreds of Thousands to Central America Could Jeopardize U.S. National Security

Internal State Department Documents Reported to Show Senior U.S. Officials Warned of Dangers of Terminating TPS  

Washington DC—The Trump administration ignored repeated warnings from senior U.S. diplomats and experts that deporting 300,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians who have been living legally for decades in the United States, and sending them back to their fragile countries of origin would result in harm to U.S. national security interests and threaten the safety of these people and their children who are U.S. citizens, according to an investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Despite the warnings, the Department of Homeland Security acted in January to terminate the legal status of the Salvadorans in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, and on Friday, May 4th it announced an end to the legal status of the 57,000 Hondurans, giving them just eighteen months to arrange their affairs, and leave the country.

“This new information underscores the dangers that could result from the administration’s decision to deport thousands of people back to risky situations. It could create further instability in the region, might increase the pressure to migrate, and will certainly threaten the safety of deportees and their families,” said Matt Clausen,  President of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading human rights organization. “U.S. officials who understand the conditions in the countries involved repeatedly sent warnings against ending TPS, yet the administration ignored them. This action must be exposed as a reckless decision and with cruel consequences.”

As reported in the Washington Post and elsewhere earlier this week, for months Democratic staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested information about the administration’s decision-making process. Beginning in January of this year, staffers were able to see the contents of multiple embassy cables and other diplomatic exchanges.

According to the Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the documents showed a blatant disregard for the advice provided by senior State department officials.  

Senator Menendez released a letter to the U.S. Comptroller General asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for further investigation of documents that “indicate that then-Secretary Tillerson issued his recommendation to terminate the TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras despite several strong warnings that doing so would harm U.S. national security and jeopardize the United States’ ability to advance its foreign policy objectives in all three countries.”

The Senator also expresses concern that the decision “appears to have disregarded warnings about how the complicated security and economic conditions, especially in El Salvador and Honduras, would leave returning TPS beneficiaries and their accompanying U.S.-citizen children vulnerable to recruitment by criminal gangs, such as MS-13, or other forms of illicit employment.”