Last week, the Department of Homeland Security terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for those in the United States from Honduras. Many of them reside in New Orleans. They will only be allowed to renew their status for one more 18-month period through January 2020. At that point, approximately 50,000 immigrants currently in the country legally will become undocumented and subject to deportation. The argument made by DHS is that TPS was extended to Hondurans already in America in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch devastated the country, and that Honduras has had ample time to recover from the hurricane.
While the crisis of 1998 has passed, the country remains a poor, desperate, dangerous place. Last year, Backgroundchecks.org rated Honduras the Most Dangerous Country for Travel (with El Salvador, which has also had its TPS status terminated, just ahead of it). Sixty percent of the country lives in poverty, and 56 percent of the country is unemployed. Gang violence and civil unrest are major problems, so much so that “deportation will be a death sentence for some Hondurans,” says Amanda Baran of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
“the fact that the White House can know this and still proceed today with this reckless policy decision to terminate their TPS status is deplorable.”
According to The Washington Post, the Trump Administration was warned of the dangers of ending TPS for those from Central American countries and Haiti. Career diplomats strongly opposed the move, worried about the safety of deportees, and informed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of their concerns. Lisa Kubiske, U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 2011 to 2014 said, “I just don’t think they have the capacity to absorb that many [people],” but according to The Washington Post, “Tillerson told Homeland Security’s acting secretary, Elaine Duke, that conditions in Central America and Haiti had improved and the TPS protections were no longer warranted.”
The decision to end TPS coverage seems to put beliefs ahead of facts, and politics ahead of people’s lives. Hondurans living in the U.S. with TPS have been in the country for 20 years. According to the Center for Migration Studies, “85 percent of Hondurans with TPS are part of the U.S. workforce, compared to 63 percent of the country's total population. They also have had 53,500 American-born children and 20 percent have mortgages.” Like many Dreamers, the children of Hondurans in America will not be sent home but exiled to a country they have never known.
America will have terminated TPS status and left 400,000 people subject deportation by January 2020. Those from Sudan, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal, and Honduras face the choice of upending their lives to return to unsafe circumstances or staying in the United States as undocumented immigrants with all the risks that decision entails.
“This is not a partisan issue; it’s a practical one,” said career diplomat John Feeley. “Does deporting people who have been here legally, following the rules for years, help us achieve our goals of having safe, orderly migration and alleviating the conditions that drive illegal immigration in the first place?”
Those living in the U.S. under TPS need to consult an experienced immigration attorney. Since the Trump Administration has emphasized “temporary” over “protection,” anyone with TPS should look to see if there are possible avenues for relief or status adjustment. It’s clear that no one with foreign points of origin can count on the current administration for mercy.