WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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7 Nov 2019 | Press Release

Scathing Senate Report Reveals Trump Administration’s Cruel Calculations to End TPS Humanitarian Program

Washington, D.C.—On Thursday, November 7, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report following a two-year investigation into the Trump administration’s termination of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) humanitarian program for some 400,000 immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras. The more than 80 pages of internal State Department documents included in the report detail the Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS for those three countries, in spite of the serious concerns expressed by key State Department officials and the diplomatic corps. The report concludes that the Trump administration ignored the safety of 400,000 TPS recipients and their 273,000 U.S. citizen children, put U.S. national security at risk, and prioritized domestic political calculations in its decision to end the program. 

The report reads: 

“Disturbingly, the Trump administration decided to terminate the TPS designations for these three countries with full knowledge of the overwhelming magnitude of the crisis it was creating. Throughout 2017, the U.S. Embassies in San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and Port-au-Prince alerted senior Trump administration officials at the National Security Council (NSC), Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in writing of the consequences of terminating TPS for the three countries. Specifically, U.S. Embassies cautioned that such decisions will harm U.S. national security, trigger a new wave of migration to the United States, and jeopardize the safety of TPS recipients and their American children.”

The report specifically details how State Department officials warned former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that ending TPS could spur countries like El Salvador and Honduras to scale back their cooperation on anti-gang and anti-drug initiatives. Experts also warned that terminating TPS could lead to a wave of deportations at an unprecedented scale, and could incite more migration from Central America and Haiti to the U.S.-Mexico border. Notably, several U.S. embassy officials emphasized that TPS individuals would be deported, often accompanied by their U.S. citizen children. Their children would be highly susceptible to gang recruitment, violence spurred by gangs, and would face challenges accessing basic services. 

Tillerson and his staff ignored these warnings and instead recommended that TPS be terminated for El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti within 18 months, a decision that, according to documents, was based partly on concerns about the political costs of ending TPS in the middle of the 2020 elections. 

With the release of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, as requested by Senator Menendez, the State Department Office of the Inspector General should conduct a full and complete investigation into the decision-making process behind the termination of TPS.

“We’ve long seen the heart-wrenching impacts of the Trump administration’s cruel approach to migration, but this report adds a layer of crassness to their actions: the political considerations that drove efforts to end TPS for hundreds of thousands of families and children already living in the United States,” said Geoff Thale, Vice President for Programs at research and advocacy group the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “For all of President Trump’s tough talk on Central American migration, it’s clear that his only priority is winning re-election; even if it means separating families, strengthening recruitment efforts for Central American gangs, and imperiling U.S. national security interests along the way.” 

The House already passed the Dream And Promise Act, which would grant TPS recipients—as well as recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) relief programs—a pathway to residency and citizenship in the United States. The Senate has not moved on the SECURE or DREAM acts that would legislate similar protections. 

“TPS, DACA, and DED recipients have been stuck in limbo for years,” said Thale. “The best way to protect them is for Congress to immediately provide a solution to their uncertainty.”