State Dept warned DHS not to end protected status for some immigrants, saying it would strengthen MS-13: report

State Dept warned DHS not to end protected status for some immigrants, saying it would strengthen MS-13: report
© Getty Images

State Department experts warned the Trump administration in October against ending temporary protected status (TPS) for thousands of Central American immigrants, fearing it could exacerbate gang activity, according to a new report.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has since ended protected status for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and others, ignoring the recommendations of then-Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonHeather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation MORE and other top officials.


An internal report obtained by CNN argued that ending the protected status could increase illegal immigration, driving up the possibility that immigrants would become involved in gangs such as MS-13 and “other illicit employment." 

Trump has repeatedly invoked gang violence, specifically from MS-13, to tout the importance of increased border security and crackdowns on immigration.

Homeland Security ending TPS for immigrants from countries suffering civil unrest or natural disasters is a departure from past administrations, which extended the protections about every two years.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele Nielsen2,000 asylum seekers return home, decide to stay in Mexico: report Trump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE argued that the law “restricts [her] ability to extend TPS,” despite State Department career experts saying in the document that ending the protections would not align with U.S. interests, regardless of the law.

The State Department also recommended giving immigrants a 36-month “wind down” period before ending the program, though Tillerson himself recommended the 18 months that Nielsen implemented.

Tillerson warned in a letter to DHS accompanying the report that revoking TPS could prompt Central American countries to take retaliatory action against the U.S.

The State Department and DHS did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (D-N.J.), whose office shared the internal documents with CNN after they were obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, is now calling for Trump to reverse the decision.

“[The Trump administration] knowingly putting our national security and the safety of TPS beneficiaries and U.S.-citizen children at risk," Menendez said in a statement.