Nicaraguans no longer under protected status, Hondurans may be next

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The Trump administration recently ended protected immigration status for Nicaraguans and is discussing the fate of Hondurans.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, announced Monday her decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for about 2,500 immigrants from the small Central American nation. Nicaraguans have until January 5, 2019-- 14 months after the initial expiration date of their status-- to leave the country or change their immigration status.

TPS is currently granted to immigrants from 10 different countries and is reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on a regular basis to determine whether renewal is appropriate. 

Duke made the decision on Nicaragua based on the lack of "definitive information regarding conditions on the ground compared to pre-Hurricane Mitch", according to a press statement. There was also no request from the Nicaraguan government to extend the current TPS status. The group received TPS shortly after the hurricane hit in Central America in 1998. Congress enacted the TPS statute in 1990.

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Like Nicaraguans, about 57,000 Hondurans were also granted TPS after Hurricane Mitch and share a January 5 expiration date for their status. Duke said, she didn't have enough information to determine whether or not grant a renewal to Hondurans under TPS and will extend the expiration date to July 5, 2018.

TPS is a form of humanitarian relief to provide a "safe haven" for immigrants who may have entered the U.S. illegally due to temporary conditions in their native country such as war, an environmental disaster or other extraordinary temporary conditions. 

The Secretary of Homeland Security may also grant TPS if a country is not able to handle the return of its nationals adequately.

Currently, the ten countries designated for TPS are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Nicaragua.

However, even if a person meets the requirements they may be denied the status if they been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors in the U.S. or if they're linked to any terrorist activity or persecution of another person.

Individuals with TPS are protected from deportation, granted travel authorization and can request an employment authorization document (EAD). TPS doesn't lead to permanent residency status but individuals with TPS can apply for a non-immigrant status or file for an immigration adjustment.

Duke said its possible Honduran TPS designation will end after the six-month extension period based off the information she already has. Duke also urged Congress to enact a permanent solution for the Nicaraguans facing deportation after 20 years of living in the U.S.

Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans and 46,000 Haitians also have expiration dates on TPS early next year but neither country was mentioned in Duke's statement.

Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to Duke to inform her that the conditions in Central America and Haiti used to justify TPS, no longer apply, according to the Washington Post.

Haitians were granted TPS after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and killed 200,000 people. DHS has until Thanksgiving to announce their plans for Haitians. In May, then-DHS Secretary John F. Kelly renewed their TPS, but only for six months.

Following Duke's announcement, politicians were quick to voice their opposition:

"The Trump Administration’s irresponsible decision to end TPS for Nicaraguans will tear apart families and upend the lives of these hard-working individuals." Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement Monday. "These immigrants have lived in the United States for nearly 20 years and have raised U.S. citizen children, contributed to our economy and enriched our communities."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also released a press statement on the decision to end TPS for Nicaraguans.

“The Trump Administration’s decision is a cowardly assault on thousands of families in communities across the nation. Mothers and fathers who have lived in America for two decades will be ripped from their children, and communities will be torn apart."

In total, more than 300,000 people are currently living in the U.S. under TPS. A total of more than 430,000 individuals have been granted TPS but some have since received another immigration status, died or moved out of the U.S.

In September, the Trump administration announced protections for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be rescinded. The program currently shields some 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. Similar to what's happening with TPS, Trump officials are giving Congress time to come up with a permanent solution to the DACA recipients.