Trump administration ends immigration program protecting Central Americans from deportation

Administration officials have been signaling their desire to end the protections arguing that a program that was supposed to provide a temporary respite after disaster and civil wars has instead become a permanent benefit. (Credit Carolyn Cole  Los Angel

Administration officials have been signaling their desire to end the protections arguing that a program that was supposed to provide a temporary respite after disaster and civil wars has instead become a permanent benefit. (Credit Carolyn Cole Los Angel

The United States will end in January 2019 a special status given to 5,300 Nicaraguan immigrants that protects them from deportation.

Under TPS, immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua were granted temporary protected status in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch killed more than 10,000 people and severely damaged infrastructure in both countries.

"The decision to end TPS status for Nicaragua is part of Trump's racist drive to force millions of people of color underground, into jails and out of the country".

For the 2,500 Nicaraguan immigrants now protected by TPS, this move will be dire as these people have built lives in the United States and their native country has a great deal of instability. Haitians status is set to expire in January 2018, affecting about 50,000 people, a lot of them in Florida, while Sanvadorans' status expires in March 2018, affecting almost 200,000 people.

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Trump officials are expected to issue decisions on the future of TPS for 50,000 Haitians in November and 200,000 Salvadorans in January.

By placing the deadline more than a year away, those eligible will have time to seek alternative legal status in the USA, or to arrange their departure, the Homeland Security Department said in a statement. In data shared with ThinkProgress, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency puts those numbers closer to 86,163 recipients for Honduras and 5,349 recipients for Nicaragua as of the end of calendar year 2016.

TPS is granted to immigrants from a handful of countries that have been beset by crises like war or natural disaster.

DHS has called on Congress to enact a permanent solution to resolve the seemingly imminent elimination of TPS in the memo and give options to the thousands of immigrations that are losing or may eventually lose these protections.

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But supporters of the program say Nicaraguan TPS holders have deep roots in the community and have been in the country for decades. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the conditions in Central America and Haiti no longer justify the need for protections under TPS. They also made clear that the DHS would not specifically target TPS holders who become undocumented once their status expires, but that they would still "prioritize criminal aliens".

"These are people who have had to go to the Department of Homeland security every 18 months, and have shown their papers, their information, their records, have paid to be renewed".

Ms Duke said she needed more information. "They have children here, and mortgages here", she said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras James (Jim) D. Nealon also urged the Trump administration to extend TPS, saying, "it makes no sense to send [citizens of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador] back to their country of origin".

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