Honduras migrants: Thousands to lose USA protected status

Leroy Wright
May 5, 2018

The Honduran government is expressing regret over a US move to end temporary protected status for tens of thousands of the Central American nation's citizens residing in the United States.

But Honduran officials have argued that the country has not improved enough to repatriate tens of thousands of people.

Immigrant advocates contend that revoking the status will simply drive people underground who have been establishing roots in the United States for anywhere from a few years up to two decades and longer, including having American-born children. Over 86,000 people from Honduras in the United States are protected by TPS, including mothers and fathers of more than 53,000 USA citizens. Many say they are fleeing violence and political unrest at home and hope to claim asylum in U.S. immigration courts.

Trump, his opponents argue, is effectively adding tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people to the ranks of those in the US without legal status.

Within the past six months, the Department of Homeland's Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen ended TPS programs for more than 50,000 Haitians, 9,000 Nepalis, and almost more than 200,000 Salvadorans.

In the case of Honduras, the program known as TPS has been in place since 1999, after Hurricane Mitch caused devastation in the Central American nation the year before. She said that DHS will work with the Department of State and the Honduran government to facilitate the transition and in addition the department will participate in outreach activities "to ensure that affected populations have a full and accurate understanding of their rights and obligations".

A member of the Honduran Red Cross walks with deportees after a bus brought them back from Mexico to Corinto, next to the border between Honduras and Guatemala, August 3, 2014. Like Honduras, El Salvador has also been ravaged by violence and a weak economy, which have led thousands to seek safety in the U.S. The TPS designation for the Salvadorans ends in September 2019 and will affect about 260,000 nationwide, including 36,000 in Texas.

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In November, then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke set a deadline of six months to make a decision about TPS for Honduras, which is one of the most violent countries in the Western Hemisphere and recently has been convulsed by protests following a contested presidential election.

Jill Marie Bussey, director of advocacy for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, one of many groups pushing the administration to allow Hondurans to stay, met with DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen this week. "Additionally, since the last review of the country's conditions in October 2016, Honduras has made substantial progress in post-hurricane recovery and reconstruction from the 1998 Hurricane Mitch".

But the Trump administration has interpreted the TPS statute more strictly than previous administrations, focusing on the temporary nature of the program.

The decision adds to hundreds of thousands of other immigrants from countries battered by violence and natural disasters who are losing permission to be in the United States.

"The Administration's decision to end TPS for Honduras is heartless and malicious", Frank Sharry, the executive director of America's Voice Education Fund, said in a statement.

Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Hondurans had until 2020 to decide what to do, meaning it was unlikely people would rush north.

TPS was created in 1990 by Congress. Regmi said after the Department of Homeland Security last week declined to renew TPS for about 9,000 Nepalis. In some ways, she added, "Honduras is worse off than when they left".

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