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Decades of Protected Immigration Status Abruptly Ended

Thousands of U.S. immigrants from Central America, who've had protected status for decades, lost it last week. (Pixabay)
Thousands of U.S. immigrants from Central America, who've had protected status for decades, lost it last week. (Pixabay)
November 13, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- Latino groups are speaking out against last week's decision by the Trump administration to end legal status for some people from Central America who were granted Temporary Protected Status over the last two decades.

The TPS program authorized residency and work permits for tens of thousands of people fleeing hurricanes and strife in Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador. Now, the Nicaraguans could lose their legal status in January 2019.

Abel Nunez, executive director of Carecen, the largest Central American organization in the U.S., said the feds are making a very short-sighted decision.

"Sending back more of their nationals when the country is not ready can only create chaos in those countries, and actually create more of a massive wave of migration to the U.S.,” Nunez said.

The TPS program has been renewed repeatedly since its inception. But Trump's Department of Homeland Security is changing course, saying the countries are now stable enough for people to return.

The department put off the decision on the fate of 86,000 Hondurans for six months. An announcement is expected soon on the fate of TPS holders from Haiti and El Salvador.

Royce Murray, policy director at the American Immigration Council, said it would be cruel to tear parents away from their American-born children, uprooting people who came here legally and have put down roots.

"More than 50 percent of these folks have been here over 20 years. A third of these Hondurans own homes,” Murray said. "When pulled together, the Hondurans as well as the Haitians and El Salvadorans who have TPS, there are 270,000 U.S.-born children from this collective group of TPS holders."

Congress has spent millions in recent years trying to stabilize countries in Central America where violent crime is rampant. Nunez said Central American immigrants send billions of dollars in remittances back to their home countries each year, and predicted the loss of that money will further destabilize the region.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA