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DHS ends protections for thousands of Central Americans

The Trump administration will end the protected immigration status of thousands of Central Americans who have been living in the United States almost two decades, urging Congress to act if it wants to spare those individuals from being uprooted.

The temporary protection for Nicaraguans will end in a year in order to allow for "an orderly transition", the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement.

In May, then-DHS Secretary John F. Kelly renewed TPS for Haitians, but only for six months, far short of the 18-month extensions repeatedly granted by the Obama administration. The secretary of homeland security decides whether a country is unsafe for its nationals to return, revoking or extending the special protected status.

Hondurans and Nicaraguans were given the protected status in response to Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The two nations have received TPS since 1999 and it gives them access to public benefits, protection from deportation and the ability to work.

"The answer is never clearer: U.S. Congress must act on a permanent solution, " she said.

In encouraging Congress to act if it wants to extend those protections permanently, the Trump administration echoed its move in ending the popular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the USA as children and which President Donald Trump made a decision to sunset this fall.

Both decisions were due by Monday, as the status was set to expire January 5.

The decision to end the status for Nicaraguans could be seen as a move to fulfill Trump's vow to tighten restrictions on immigration.

"Given the lengthy period of their presence here Congress may wish to find a solution that allows them a more permanent status versus this 18 month to 18 month temporary fix that has been going on for two decades", the official said. Hondurans also have to have been living in the U.S. continuously since January 5, 1999 to qualify, also due to Hurricane Mitch.

TPS recipients and their families are bracing for bad news.

In the next few months, the status of hundreds of thousands of TPS recipients will be up for decision.

The Trump administration has argued the program should be temporary, as the name suggests.

"Haiti is a textbook case for an 18-month extension due to Hurricane Matthew, the cholera epidemic, and incomplete quake recovery", said Steve Forester, immigration policy coordinator with the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. Back in June, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the Haitian government should prepare to accept Haitians living in the USA under TPS. DHS had announced six months earlier that it was extending the protection for just another six months so for immigrants to prepare to go back.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paved the way for TPS to be withdrawn for Central Americans and Haitians by sending a letter to DHS stating that conditions in those countries had improved to the point that people no longer needed protection. Democrats have heavily lobbied DHS to preserve the protections, as have advocacy groups and business groups like the US Chamber of Commerce.

Wang said its even more important to find a permanent solution and for Congress to pass legislation that will allow TPS holders a pathway to legal residency.



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