Given the Trump administration’s ongoing targeting of immigrants in the United States, it isn’t surprising that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believes hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and Haitians should no longer be afforded Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
This week, Tillerson sent a letter to acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Elaine Duke stating that conditions in Central America and Haiti no longer warrant a continuance of TPS, The Washington Post reported. While the letter was not an official recommendation, according to the newspaper, it could have significant influence on a final decision about whether or not to extend TPS for some 300,000 immigrants in the U.S.
DHS must announce by Monday what it plans to do with 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans whose TPS expires in January. The deadline for an announcement on Haitians is Nov. 23, and the agency has until January to issue a ruling about an additional 200,000 TPS holders from El Salvador.
TPS was created in 1990 by Congress to protect undocumented immigrants from being deported to countries considered unsafe due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other emergency circumstances. According to the North American Congress on Latin America, more than 420,000 immigrants in the U.S. have TPS, and this group of Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians have raised 273,000 U.S.–born children.
If DHS decides to revoke their temporary status, these immigrants—some of whom have lived in the U.S. for more than two decades—would face a potentially devastating choice of going back to a country that no longer is considered home, or remaining in the U.S. illegally and facing possible detention and deportation.
As the Post points out, if these TPS holders choose the latter option, it wouldn’t be too hard for immigration officials to find them. They are required to keep their personal information up to date at DHS, including their home addresses and phone numbers.
If DHS decides to terminate the temporary status of these Central Americans and Haitians, they would have about six months to put their affairs in order to leave the country.
One administration official told the newspaper that “with this particular law, it is very clear to this administration what needs to be done.”