As TPS Deadlines Draw Near Thousands of Central Americans and Haitians Could Be Sent Home

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The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and Haitians, amongst others, living in the U.S. may be nearing its end. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering whether or not to extend TPS to its beneficiaries who were granted legal relief and protection as a result of their home countries recovering from catastrophic disasters or civil wars.

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As the expiration dates for the protection come close—specifically Nicaragua and Honduras face Jan. 5 expiration dates, the Trump administration is considering ending their protection. DHS decisions regarding extensions are to be expected by Nov. 6. Generally, Homeland Security grants TPS to eligible individuals who are already in the U.S. but the environmental conditions and/or political circumstances prevent them from returning to their countries safely. The status is normally granted from six to eighteen months but can be extended as many times as the DHS and the State Department find suitable. Honduras’ TPS status was granted in direct response to the damages caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998— a deadly Category 5 hurricane that struck the country. El Salvador was granted status in 2001 in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, as well as Haiti in 2010. As a result of multiple extensions, the temporary stays have stretched to nearly 10 years for Haitians and almost 20 for Salvadorans and Hondurans.

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The termination of TPS for hundreds of thousands of individuals residing in the U.S. will affect many who for nearly a decade or more have helped build communities, birthed and raised American citizens, as well as significantly contributed to our social and economical advancement.  A report from the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) found that the United States could lose an estimated $164 billion in gross domestic product over the decade if TPS status were to be terminated for Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians. “There are more than 300,000 of us and we refuse in to be used as a bargaining chip. The truth is that this is our home, we have children that were born here, we are business owners and we have contributed to the wellbeing of our communities,” said Edwin Murillo of the National TPS Alliance.

In an effort to persuade and expedite the decision to renew TPS for Hondurans and Salvadorans, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and twenty other colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke. “At a time when the U.S. is making our own investments to support security, stability, and prosperity in Central America through foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement, a decision to not renew the TPS designation for these two countries would undercut the very strategic objectives we seek to achieve in Central America,” the Senators wrote.

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No further update on the current status of the decision has been shared, but Trump administration officials have indicated they are not too keen on extending their status. "We're looking at the fact that TPS means temporary, and it has not been temporary for many years and we have created a situation where people have lived in this country for a long time," said David Lapan, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). John Kelly, then secretary of Homeland Security, renewed Haiti’s TPS in March for just six months. After the decision, Kelly, now White House chief of staff, told The Miami Herald that individuals protected by the program “need to start thinking about returning.”