Trump administration will end protections for 50,000 Hondurans living in U.S. since 1999

More than 50,000 Hondurans who have been allowed to live and work in the United States since 1999 will have until January 2020 to leave the country or face deportation, the Department of Homeland Security will announce Friday, according to internal DHS memos.

The Hondurans were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1999, shielding them from deportation, after Hurricane Mitch slammed their country and killed 10,000. But Trump administration has been eliminating the protections, arguing they were never designed to grant long-term residency to foreigners who may have arrived illegal or overstayed their visas.

In the past six months, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has ended the TPS designation for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Haitians and 9,000 Nepalis, giving those groups a 12 to 18 months to prepare a departure or secure some other form of legal status. 

Nielsen extended TPS for 7,000 migrants from war-torn Syria in January.

According to the memos, copies of which were shared with The Washington Post, Nielsen will make the announcement Friday afternoon, characterizing the decision as the result of a careful assessment of conditions on the ground in Honduras.

As with her previous announcements, Nielsen affirms that the dangerous circumstances that followed the original TPS designation– in this case a hurricane– are no longer present in Honduras, obligating her to end the protections.

Congress established TPS as a humanitarian program in 1990 to avoid deporting foreigners to countries that have been destabilized by natural disasters or civil strife. Hondurans were the second-largest group of TPS recipients after Salvadorans, and many have lived most of their adult lives in the United States, running businesses, purchasing homes and raising American-born children.

Critics of Trump administration say kicking such immigrants out of the United States is shortsighted and heartless, particularly at a time when nations like Honduras are plagued by gang violence and political killings.

Honduras is a major source of illegal immigrant to the United States, and many of the families who joined the migrant caravan through Mexico that captured the attention of President Trump said they fled the country in fear of their lives. They joined thousands of others Hondurans who arrive every month to the U.S. border with Mexico to request asylum.

“There is little doubt that the White House has been driving these TPS decisions based on ideology, not based upon what is best for our foreign policy interests and for the region,” said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank. 

“It makes the situation in Honduras and Central America worse and will assuredly come back to haunt us in time,” he said.

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