The Department of Homeland Security is set to end the protected immigration status of thousands of Central Americans. According to acting Secretary Elaine Duke, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua will be terminated.
There will be a 12-month delay in the Nicaragua program’s end, the department clarified Monday night when announcing the decision. Those affected have reportedly been living in the United States nearly two decades, and the DHS says Congress needs to act if the individuals have any chance of remaining in the country.
The Trump administration similarly encouraged Congress to act on legislation for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a veiled amnesty program implemented under former President Barack Hussein Obama’s administration. President Trump decided to end the program earlier this year, and told Congress if they intended to help the DACA recipients, they must do so through the passage of a law.
The ending of the DACA program was delayed, as was the ending of the TPS designation for Nicaragua, in order to give Congress time to act.
One DHS official said, “Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution and provide those in an otherwise perpetually temporary status with a certain future.”
The TPS is an immigration status allowed by law for certain countries. To qualify, the country would need to be experiencing extreme conditions, such as a natural disaster, epidemic or war.
Under the TPS, individuals are immune from deportation and authorized to work in the United States. Outside of the protections offered by the TPS, the cases would be decided on an individual basis, and many of those currently protected may be designated as undocumented immigrants.
Individuals from several countries are currently protected under the TPS. The administration is evaluating each country individually. As with previous administrations, the DHS looks at whether conditions have improved over whatever initially triggered the protected designation. It does not consider conditions currently in the country in question, which may be due to other causes.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has asked the DHS to stop perpetually renewing the TPS since over the next few months, decisions will be made as to the status of thousands of TPS recipients.
Under the Trump administration, the DHS has already terminated the protected status for individuals from Sudan, extended protections for South Sudan, and delayed a decision on protections for nearly 58,000 Haitians for six-months. Next year, they will decide on protections for nearly 260,000 individuals from El Salvador, who have lived in the United States for over 15 years.
The DHS also said Duke has not decided on the protected status of those from Honduras, triggering an automatic six-month extension to that program. After six months, Duke will make a decision to terminate or further extend the status.
TPS recipients who lose their status are urged to either apply for another immigration status, if eligible, or prepare to depart the country.