Trump Administration Ends Protected Status for Thousands of Hondurans

Trump Administration Ends Protected Status for Thousands of Hondurans

But of all these countries, Honduras is perhaps the most volatile. The Central American nation has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Irregularities in last November’s presidential election have led to massive street protests, which have turned violent.

Signed into law by President George Bush in 1990, the temporary protected status program once enabled some 435,000 people from 10 countries crippled by natural disasters, war and other strife to live in the United States.

“T.P.S. will still be on the books, but will have been virtually emptied of beneficiaries at a time of the greatest number of forcibly displaced in recent history and an unprecedented number of complex crises giving rise to displacement,” said Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies in New York.

Immigrant advocates and the Honduran government had asked the United States to extend the program, as has happened several times since 1999. This week, more than 600 faith leaders signed a letter asking the administration for an 18-month extension, calling a termination “unconscionable.”

“This can’t be,” said Cristiane Rosales-Fajardo, founder of NOLA Village, an advocacy group in New Orleans, where Hondurans outnumber other Hispanics. “They rebuilt our houses and the city after Hurricane Katrina. When nobody wanted to come, they were here bringing New Orleans back to life.”

On Twitter, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican congresswoman from South Florida, called the administration’s decision “wrongheaded” and detrimental to families and the economy.

Jessica Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, whose members include beneficiaries, said the reversal amounted to a “callous policy.”

“The cancellation of T.P.S. for Honduran immigrants is a death sentence for many of those who would be sent back to a country being roiled by political repression and violence,” Ms. Morales said.

According to the Center for Migration Studies, Hondurans with protected status have 53,500 American-born children; 85 percent participate in the labor force, compared with 63 percent of the overall United States population; and nearly 20 percent have mortgages.

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Supporters of a program that gives people from some countries temporary protection from deportation rallied in San Francisco in March. Credit Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

“I never took a cent from the government,” said Mr. Contreras, the Long Island contractor.

The end of protection for his wife, who is from El Salvador, was the first blow to the family of Mr. Contreras, who has become an immigration activist at an organization called Make the Road New York.

The Trump administration says that a program designed to provide temporary, disaster-related help has instead become a quasi-permanent green light for hundreds of thousands of people. It argues that the only criteria the government should consider in continuing the program is whether the original reason for the designation — in this case, devastation from the hurricane — persists.

“Since 1999, conditions in Honduras that resulted from the hurricane have notably improved,” the Homeland Security Department statement said. “Additionally, since the last review of the country’s conditions in October 2016, Honduras has made substantial progress in post-hurricane recovery and reconstruction from the 1998 Hurricane Mitch.”

Critics of the program agree.

“The hurricane was a generation ago, and Honduras long ago reverted to its regular messed-up state, not the special post-hurricane messed-up state required by the T.P.S. statute,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors curbs on immigration. “There can be no honest basis for an extension.”

The program provides temporary legal status and work permits to people already in the United States, whether they entered legally or not. The Homeland Security secretary decides when a country merits the designation and whether to renew it, if conditions warrant it.

Hondurans have been on tenterhooks since last year, when T.P.S. designation for their country was up for renewal. In November, the government allowed it to automatically extend for six months, citing a need for further assessment.

Among the 86,000 Hondurans who currently have protection under the program, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, 45,600 re-registered for the six-month extension. An unspecified number out of the total have obtained legal status in the United States, the agency said, and, thus, will not have to leave.

T.P.S. holders carry a card that is similar to a driver’s license, which enables them to work legally. They also have Social Security numbers. However, they are not entitled to federal or state loans and other assistance.

Catherine Sarmiento, 23, who has had protected status as a Honduran since age 8, finished four years of college last year and found a job as a nuclear medicine technician at a hospital in Florida. Her parents and sister, also living in Florida under protected status, face the loss of their legal resident status and work permits, too, she said. “We’re all worried,” she said. “The whole family is worried.”

About 61 percent of Hondurans lived in poverty in 2016, according to the World Bank, and Honduras has the biggest gap between rich and poor of any country.

Many facing the loss of their protected status said they would resort to living in the shadows, like the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, rather than return to their troubled homeland.

Sonia Paz, 55, who arrived in Los Angeles when she was 22 and has three children and grandchildren, said she had no intention of leaving.

“I have nothing in Honduras,” she said. “To go back would be the kiss of death.” Her hometown is San Pedro Sula, notorious for gangs that target people with relatives in the United States for extortion. “They find out that you were in America and take the little you have away from you, or kill you,” she added.

Ms. Paz, a nanny in Pacific Palisades, west of Los Angeles, has flown to Washington to advocate for continuation of the program.

Her employer, Julie Silver, said that Ms. Paz is an indispensable member of “the team” raising Sarah, 13 and Katie, 6, with whom she paints, does homework and enjoys meals. Thanks to her, they have learned some Spanish.

“She is completely part of our family. They are taking away her safety net for no reason at all,” Ms. Silver said. “We are going to go to bat for her and support her in any way we can because we love her.”

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Source link : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/us/honduras-temporary-protected-status.html
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Publish date : 2018-05-04 20:20:00
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