Trump officials disregarded warnings not to revoke protections for immigrants: report

Trump officials disregarded warnings not to revoke protections for immigrants: report
© Camille Fine

Top Trump administration officials reportedly ignored the advice of senior American diplomats not to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and Haitians living in the U.S.

The warnings, transmitted in a series of diplomatic cables to top State Department officials last year, conveyed that ending the immigrants' temporary residency and deporting them could destabilize the region, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Senate Democrats are investigating the cables, and recently referred their findings to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Post reported.

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Despite the warnings from senior diplomats, then-Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonReport: Trump UK ambassador fired deputy for mentioning Obama in speech Overnight Defense: Ex-Navy secretary slams Trump in new op-ed | Impeachment tests Pompeo's ties with Trump | Mexican president rules out US 'intervention' against cartels Pompeo-Trump relationship tested by impeachment inquiry MORE joined other top Trump administration officials in pressing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end the immigrants' protected status.

In an Oct. 31 letter to then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine DukeElaine Costanzo DukeChad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senate paves way for Trump's next DHS chief Five things to watch at Supreme Court's DACA hearings MORE, Tillerson argued that conditions in Central America and Haiti had improved to the point that the TPS protections were no longer necessary. 

But Duke was reluctant to end the protections and after consulting with a top aide decided that she was not comfortable with ending the immigrants' TPS, the Post reported.

That prompted a frustrated phone call to Duke by White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who had himself served atop DHS for the first six months of the Trump administration.

According to the Post, the Trump administration has so far canceled TPS for 195,000 Salvadorans, 46,000 Haitians and, most recently, 57,000 Hondurans. Some 273,000 U.S.-born children have parents from those countries covered under TPS. 

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners GOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the GAO requesting an independent investigation into the administration officials' actions, in which he said that Tillerson had deliberately disregarded the advice of career State Department officials.

"I am concerned that the Department of State, under then-Secretary of State Tillerson’s leadership, acted in a way that jeopardized U.S. national security and put at risk the physical safety of current beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program," Menendez wrote, according to the Post.