Hurricane Mitch and the flooding it brought to Central America killed more than 19,000 people in 1998. In its wake, the US granted Nicaraguans and Hondurans a Temporary Protected Status (TPS), meaning they were sheltered from deportation and allowed to get things like jobs and insurance. On Monday, the White House announced an estimated 2,500 Nicaraguans will not see their TPS designation renewed; they have 14 months—until Jan. 5, 2019—to get out or change their residency status to one that permits them to stay. More:
- The decision came from Department of Homeland Security acting secretary Elaine Duke, who the Washington Post reports found the bleak situation wrought by Hurricane Mitch wasn't a factor in Nicaragua anymore.
- As for the 57,000 Hondurans who have the same protection, a punt. Per a statement, "Based on the lack of definitive information regarding conditions on the ground [in Honduras] compared to pre-Hurricane Mitch," the TPS protection has been extended for six months.
- The Post reports the decision was keenly observed by the roughly 200,000 Salvadorans (here following 2001 earthquakes) and 50,000 Haitians (2010 quake) whose own TPS designation expires in 2018; the latter group will learn their fate by Nov. 23, reports Politico.
- The Post previously reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was required by law to weigh in, and sent DHS a letter last Tuesday stating his belief that the conditions in Central America and Haiti had improved such that TPS was not necessary.
- NBC News reports the presidents of Honduras and El Salvador have called on the US to keep TPS in place for their countries, which see a financial boon from the money sent from the US to families back home. Nicaragua did not make any such request.
- Vox suspects that if these TPS designations are revoked, many of those currently covered by TPS status will opt to stay here illegally, largely "because so many have been in the US for so long—63% of Hondurans have been in the US 20 years or more."
- Those countries are among nine that Reuters reports TPS currently covers; the other five are Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The HuffPost reports the Trump administration previously ended TPS for Sudan, with a 12-month "sunset period" currently in effect.
- The Miami Herald frames the renewals as being a longstanding "source of controversy" as the repeated 18-month renewals have allowed many to "temporarily" be here for as long as 20 years. Most of those who entered the US from Central America did so illegally, per the Herald. It shares the story of Orlando Lopez, a father of four who left Honduras at age 36 after Hurricane Mitch destroyed the crops that supported his family. Now, he's fearful and depressed: “After 20 years of building a life, starting from the ground up, owning a home and a business—sending me back would be sending me to die.”
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