TPS Ends for Nicaraguans; Extended 6 months for Hondurans; Salvadoran, Hattians in Doubt

The Trump Administration announced yesterday it was ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 5,300 Nicaraguans who have untilJanuary 5, 2019 to leave the country, obtain alternative legal status or become undocumented. TPS was automatically extended 6 months, through July 5, 2018, for 86,000 Hondurans when Acting Secretary Elaine Duke was unable to make a decisionregarding living conditions in Honduras following the 1999 hurricane.

By far the largest number of TPS recipients, 212,000, are from El Salvador and their protections will expire in March, 2018. In all, about 325,000 residents from 10 countries, including Haiti, Syria, Somalia and Nepal, are protected under the program.

The program allows individuals to remain in the U.S. after a natural disaster has devastated their home country. TPS beneficiaries cannot normally be deported, can obtain work authorization and can apply for travel permission known as Advance Parole. Most federal courts have also concluded that TPS allows individuals to adjust status to permanent residency in the US under limited circumstances.

TPS recipients from Nicaragua, Honduras and Els Salvador have no reason to panic. All people in this group have lived in the US more than 10 years and if they have children, spouses or parents who are US citizens or permanent residents they may be eligible for Cancellation of Removal- known generally as “10-year cases” which allow people in removal proceedings to apply for permanent residency if they can prove that their deportation will result in “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to the qualifying relative. In addition, some TPS beneficiaries may still have time to apply for adjustment of status under recent federal court decisions. Finally, administration officials who briefed reporters said that immigration agents won’t immediately round up people whose protections are expiring. The department still makes a priority of arresting criminals, and most TPS residents don’t fit that bill, they said.

Just as Trump said Congress should act when he rescinded DACA, an administration official said Monday that lawmakers should intervene if they want to prevent TPS holders from being kicked out of the country. The official, who declined to be quoted by name, said “Congress may wish to find a solution that allows [TPS holders] a more permanent status versus this 18-month to 18-month temporary fix that has been going on for two decades,” referring to the repeated short-term extensions. “That is up to Congress, but the administration would support Congress’s efforts to find such a solution.”

Unfortunately, Trump officials subsequently floated a “compromise” proposal to extend DACA on condition that Congress also approve a more comprehensive immigration revision that fully funds the wall along the southern border and drastically cuts legal immigration in the future. 

The next deadline, later this month, will involve whether to renew protections for about 50,000 Haitians whose protection will expire on Jan. 22, 2018. Haitians were first given temporary protected status after a catastrophic earthquake in 2010, which killed more than 300,000 people, displaced more than 1.5 million and triggered a widespread cholera epidemic.

In May, then-Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly announced that he would extend the protections for Haitians for just six months, saying that the island nation had recovered sufficiently to justify sending people back.DHS already ended TPS for immigrants from Sudan, with a 12-month sunset period and previously warned Haitians they would likely not see another extension.

Interestingly enough, the decisions came after the Nicaraguan government, led by leftist President Daniel Ortega, did not formally request a TPS extension, whereas leaders from Honduras and El Salvador have waged a vigorous lobbying campaign to renew it.

The ultimate decision on the fate of TPS beneficiaries will probably be made by the new DHS Secretary. President Trump has nominated Kirstjen Nielsen, the deputy White House chief of staff, to be the next DHS secretary, and she will face Senate confirmation hearings Wednesday.