On Friday, the Trump administration ended a special immigration program for some 57,000 Hondurans.
The decision, said Michael Martin of National Public Radio, is only the latest in a series of similar actions. ‘Temporary Protected Status’ – an immigration category protecting refugees of natural disaster and manmade catastrophe – was revoked for Nicaraguan and Salvadoran nationals, too.
Some Hondurans qualified for TPS beginning in 1999.
Just a year earlier, said Martin, Hurricane Mitch had roared across the small Central American country’s shores, killing thousands and displacing many more. The aftermath amounted to a humanitarian disaster, prompting the United States to accept some refugees.
However, TPS comes with a stipulation – its recipients must go home once the federal government decides conditions have returned to manageable.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielson explained in her Friday night statement that conditions in Honduras have “notably improved.” Hurricane Mitch, after all, dissipated into the atmosphere nearly two decades ago.
“The Secretary determined that the disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch that served as the basis for its TPS designation has decreased to a degree that it should no longer be regarded as substantial,” wrote Nielson in her statement. “Thus, as required under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”
Termination of TPS for Hondurans, wrote Nielson, will continue for another 18 months before closing out on January 5th, 2020.
The announcement, reports WLRN.org, follows “similar decisions by Nielson to end TPS for almost 200,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Haitians and 9,000 Nepalis. Smaller numbers of Nicaraguans and Sudanese have also lost TPS under the Trump administration. All of these immigration groups were given more than a year to leave.”
The administration’s harsh decisions on refugees and migrants have prompted immigration advocates’ concern. Honduras and El Salvador, for instance, lie at the epicenter of the Central American gang crisis. Both nations – small in size but densely populated – have among the highest homicide rates in the world.
Much of the violence stems from the mass deportation of MS-13 gang members from Los Angeles and the southwest United States in the 1980s and 1990s. Alongside violence, claims the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., citizens cope with clean water scarcity and chronic childhood hunger.
“The administration has attempted to paint a picture that it has no choice but to terminate TPS,” said CLINIC’s executive director, Jeanne Atkinson.
“Its actions seem to suggest that all of the past Republican and Democratic administrations that extended TPS for Honduras have not properly applied the law,” said Atkinson.
“To the contrary,” she continued, “it is the Trump administration’s action that disregards the law and the intent of Congress in creating TPS in the first place to safeguard human lives.”
Nevertheless, conservatives bent on capping immigration say that temporary means temporary. Mark Krikorian – a guest on NPR and quoted on WLRN – said it’s time to let go of the past.
“The hurricane that justified it in the first place was two decades ago,” he said. “At some point, temporary needs to mean temporary.”