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 NielsenFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network DOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign 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 TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat 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: 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 Lawmakers call on Amazon to safeguard against unsafe products Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator 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 DukeDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Supreme Court to hear cases on Trump efforts to end DACA Appeals court rules Trump end of DACA was unlawful 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 ThompsonTop Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data Hillicon Valley: 8chan owner defends platform before Congress | Facebook launches dating feature | New York City sues T-Mobile | Top NSA cyber official names ransomware as 2020 threat | Blue Dog Dems urge action on election security 8chan owner defends platform in testimony before Congress 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.