DHS ends protected status for Nepal

DHS ends protected status for Nepal
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration announced Thursday the end of temporary protected status (TPS) for Nepal, giving nearly 9,000 Nepalese citizens 12 months to leave the United States.

Under TPS, citizens of certain countries who are in the United States illegally are protected from deportation and allowed to work in the country. The designation is applied following natural or man-made disasters that make the immigrants' return home dangerous.

After an earthquake in 2015, Nepalese citizens were allowed to remain in the United States while conditions in their country improved. More than 14,000 used the benefit, and 8,950 remain in the country.

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"Since the 2015 earthquake, conditions in Nepal have notably improved. Additionally, since the last review of the country’s conditions in October 2016, Nepal has made substantial progress in post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE said.

Nielsen gave Nepalese TPS recipients 12 months to either apply for a new immigration status or prepare for their departure. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is allowed to extend TPS for up to 18 months at a time.

The planned move to cancel the 8,950 temporary residency permits was first reported Wednesday by The Washington Post.

“Terminating TPS for Nepal is not just wrong but immoral,” said Pabitra Khati Benjamin, executive director of Adhikaar, a Nepalese-American advocacy organization. “It is clear that in the three years since the earthquake, Nepal is still very much in recovery mode. Less than 13.3 percent of the homes affected have been rebuilt. Yes, the country is functioning, but that is in part as a result of TPS holders sending money back home to rebuild.”

A pair of Democratic lawmakers from New York also ripped the move.

“It lacks vision and leadership from President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE to unleash the full strength of his deportation machine on a small number of women and men who pose no risk to the United States," Reps. Joseph Crowley and Grace MengGrace MengHillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension Hillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products MORE, both New York Democrats, said in a joint statement.

The move is the latest in a series of TPS terminations by the Trump administration.

In January, Nielsen announced the end of TPS for 260,000 Salvadorans and gave them 18 months to prepare for their departure. 

The Salvadoran decision followed the end of TPS protections for Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti.

"This Administration’s motion today to terminate TPS for Nepal marks the fifth in a string of heartless decisions that have put over 300,000 immigrants on the path to deportation. While we are disheartened, we are not surprised," said Pili Tobar, managing director of America's Voice, a progressive immigration advocacy organization.

DHS, then under acting 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, in November renewed the Honduran TPS for its nearly 60,000 beneficiaries, but only for the statutory minimum six months.

The continuation of Honduran TPS allegedly earned Duke a rebuke from White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE. As DHS secretary, Kelly instated a stricter interpretation of TPS statute, altering a tradition of perfunctory renewals dating back to the 1990s.

Nielsen spent Thursday morning testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee and announced her decision on Nepal's TPS minutes after the hearing concluded. That drew an additional rebuke from Democrats.

“It is unfortunate that our Committee just discussed TPS with Secretary Nielsen this morning and she completely failed to mention this imminent decision," said Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonJudge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Hillicon Valley: FCC moves against Huawei, ZTE | Dem groups ask Google to reconsider ads policy | Bill introduced to increase data access during probes House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues MORE (D-Miss.), the ranking member of the committee.

"What’s worse, this is repeating a pattern at DHS. DHS has, time and again, canceled protected status for certain immigrant groups without sharing a full and complete rationale with Congress.”

- Updated at 3:41 p.m.