Published: Wed, November 08, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

U.S. to end protected immigration status for Nicaraguans

U.S. to end protected immigration status for Nicaraguans

The Trump administration on Monday said it is terminating temporary special deportation protections for thousands of Nicaraguans affected by a 1998 hurricane that devastated the Central American country.

Immigration authorities say the TPS program was designed as a temporary humanitarian response to crises in Central America and Haiti, and it was never meant to be a path to permanent residency or US citizenship.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday night that about 2,000 Nicaraguans who have Temporary Protected Status must leave or seek another form of legal residency, though those affected will be able to stay until January 5, 2019.

The acting homeland security secretary says the program is no longer necessary for Nicaraguans in the U.S.

TPS for about 86,000 Hondurans was also set to expire January 5, but officials said they haven't made a decision on Honduras yet.

Belinda Osorio, a Honduran-American who lives and works in Florida and has been in the US for decades through TPS, told reporters at a conference call on Tuesday that she would not put her 14-year-old son in danger by going back to Honduras, regardless of the administration's eventual decision. Their protection was set to expire January 5.

A decision on El Salvador's status, which was given TPS after its 2001 quake, is due on 8 January 2018.

Central American immigrants have had TPS longer than any other group.

By 23 November, the Department of Homeland Security will have to make a decision on whether to extend protective status for 46,000 Haitian immigrants granted TPS after the 2010 natural disaster. Hondurans' TPS has been temporarily extended until July 2018 to allow U.S. officials more time to assess conditions in Honduras.

"We recognize that it's a sovereign decision of the U.S., but we see also how troubled our compatriots are", Hernandez said.

"We are looking at the fact that temporary protected status means temporary, and it has not been temporary for many years", DHS spokesman David Lapan said earlier this month.

Tillerson said the authority rested on DHS, but added that the State Department provides input when the decision is about to be made.

Martínez is a member of a national alliance of organizations that has advocated for the renewal of TPS for all participating countries. As for the 57,000 Hondurans who have the same protection, a punt.

El Salvador originally got its protected status following two separate earthquakes in 2001. Haiti received its initial TPS designation in 2010 after an quake left 1.5 million people homeless and injured 300,000 people.

Previous administrations had found that the hurricane and subsequent environmental disasters disrupted living conditions to the point that the government couldn't adequately handle the return of its nationals. They also made clear that the DHS would not specifically target TPS holders who become undocumented once their status expires, but that they would still "prioritize criminal aliens".

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