Tuesday, November 7, 2017

U.S. ends TPS for Nicaraguans, extends for Hondurans (Nov. 7, 2017)

The Trump administration deferred a decision on whether to terminate a program offering 57,000 Hondurans temporary permission to live and work in the U.S. That means their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is de facto extended for another six months. The Department of Homeland Security did terminate the program for about 2,500 Nicaraguans, who will be given 14 months to leave the U.S. (Different media outlets have varying estimates of each nationality's TPS enrollees, unless otherwise noted, the above estimates come from the Pew Research Center.)

Immigrants from both countries were granted the temporary protection from deportation in 1998, in the wake of widespread destruction in their home countries from Hurricane Mitch. The TPS has been extended since then, and many migrants have lived in the U.S. for over 20 years.

The lack of determination for Honduras is surprising, and gives little indication how the administration might act with regards to the  200,000 Salvadorans and 50,000 Haitians whose TPS status is due to expire early next year, notes the Washington Post. (See yesterday's post.) The decision was not the worst-case scenario for immigration advocates, nor does it satisfy hardliners who say the TPS programs were never meant to be so long-term.

Reports until yesterday focused on a recommendation from the State Department to terminate the program for Central Americans and Haitians. (See yesterday's post.) Countering that vision, a DHS official last week argued to extend protections for Central Americans, pointing to their positive workforce participation. John Kelly-appointee James Nealon said the returnees would put “a huge burden on employment” in home countries, something, he says, would be akin to "working against ourselves," in reference to U.S. efforts to stem Central American migration by improving local conditions, reports Breitbart News.

Honduran and Salvadoran authorities have pushed the U.S. to extend the program, arguing that the return of so many migrants would be catastrophic to their home countries. (See for example, June 14's post, about the Central America summit held in Miami. In September a Salvadoran delegation led by the country's foreign minister lobbied Washington lawmakers to extend TPS and DACA program for migrants brought to the U.S. as children. 

Indeed, an Honduran diplomatic mission in Washington last week met with Nealon as part of efforts to push for TPS's extension, reports El Heraldo. Yesterday, Honduran Foreign Minister María Dolores Agüero promised to maintain lobbying efforts, reports El Heraldo, separately. Honduras is headed towards a general election later this month.

Homeland Security initially grants TPS for between six and 18 months in the wake of natural disasters, and can renew the status indefinitely if conditions remain unsafe or the country involved is unable to handle the return of its nationals, explains McClatchy. Both the Bush and Obama administrations argued that Central American nations could not cope with the return of thousands of their nationals and extended TPS in those cases, reports the BBC.

DHS acting secretary Elaine Duke said Nicaragua had effectively recovered from the adverse conditions after the hurricane, but postponed a decision for Hondurans because of a "lack of definitive information regarding conditions on the ground compared to pre-Hurricane Mitch"

The Miami Herald argues in favor of extending TPS status for the nearly 300,000 Central American and Haitian recipients. Forcing them to leave would affect jobs in the U.S., hitting remittances they send home and forcing them to compete in economies that would have a hard time absorbing them. The paper also notes that a bill in Congress would provide a legal route to residency for many of these migrants.

Breitbart argues that the surprise Trump administration move is a negotiating tactic to negotiate immigration policy with Democrats in Congress.

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