DHS ends immigration protection for 57K Hondurans

DHS ends immigration protection for 57K Hondurans
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Friday the end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 57,000 Honduran citizens in the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenSessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Trump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy McCain calls on Trump to rescind family separation policy: It's 'an affront to the decency of the American people' MORE gave them until January 2020 — the maximum 18-month period — to return to Honduras or seek different immigration status.

The Hondurans protected by TPS have been in the United States at least since Hurricane Mitch hit the country in 1998.

The decision was first reported by McClatchy and The New York Times, before Homeland Security officially released a final decision on the matter.

Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a non-profit organization, responded to the McClatchy report, saying the cancellation of Honduran TPS "is a death sentence for many of those who would be sent back to a country being roiled by political repression and violence."

"The cancellation is yet another example of the white supremacist agenda under the Trump administration that is attacking the diverse, welcoming America we know, to make the United States a white nation," she added.

Under TPS, citizens of countries undergoing natural or human-made disasters are allowed to stay and work in the United States at least until their countries can re-absorb the migrant population.

Previous Democratic and Republican administrations had more or less automatically issued 18-month renewals for TPS — the maximum statutory limit — especially for Latin American countries in the program.

But the Trump administration has interpreted the TPS statute more strictly than previous administrations, focusing on the temporary nature of the program. TPS is meant to protect foreign citizens from the after-effects of a particular crisis, not a country's general situation.

In a statement, DHS wrote that Nielsen based her decision on "careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process."

"Since 1999, conditions in Honduras that resulted from the hurricane have notably improved. 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," the DHS statement reads.

Groups that favor limited immigration praised the administration's decision, saying the effects of Hurricane Mitch are long-gone.

"The hurricane that struck Honduras in 1998 is not the reason why its citizens still enjoy TPS protection in 2018," said RJ Hauman, government relations director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "They are still here because the people who willingly accepted our temporary offer, their advocates, and their governments have abused our generosity and managed to get the program extended far beyond any reasonable definition of temporary."

“The hurricane was a generation ago, and Honduras long ago reverted to its regular messed-up state, not the special post-hurricane messed-up state required by the TPS statute,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “There can be no basis for an extension.”

The Trump administration previously ended the designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal and Sudan.

If the Honduran designation is terminated, the Trump administration will have canceled protections for about 315,000 foreign citizens.

Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenTrump immigration comments spark chaos in GOP More than 100 bipartisan lawmakers urge Pruitt to scrap 'secret science' rule GOP doubles female recruits for congressional races MORE and Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloZeal, this time from the center The Hill's 12:30 Report Few voice support after House GOP releases 293-page DACA bill MORE, whose districts host many TPS recipients, reacted to the reports, calling for passage of the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees Act, which would allow TPS recipients to apply for permanent residency in the United States.

“Sadly, Hondurans are only the latest group of people in my South Florida community losing their TPS status this year following Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorians," Ros-Lehtinen said. "The loss of these hardworking people will have a negative impact on our economy, in addition to disrupting so many lives in our community."

Curbelo, a leading Republican voice for immigration reform, touted the importance of Honduran TPS recipients, stating that the group had become essential to the region by contributing to the local economy and culture.

"This is another shortsighted decision by the Administration, and while I’m extremely disappointed, I’ve long said Congress has a responsibility to step up and put an end to the anxiety and uncertainty young immigrants brought to our country as children and those contributing to our country under the TPS program face because of these short-term Executive mandates," he said.

Honduras has been roiled by political violence since the reelection of President Juan Orlando Hernández in April.

Hernández, a key U.S. ally in the region, received critical support from the Trump administration as other international actors raised doubts over the validity of his reelection.

Honduran immigrants have recently made news as part of a caravan of 1,100 migrants who joined together to trek across Mexico to reach the U.S. About 160 of those migrants — a majority of whom were Hondurans fleeing Hernández — have been allowed into the U.S. to request asylum.