By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service
Photo: About 3,000 Nicaraguan legal immigrants will become undocumented by January 2019 unless Congress acts to give them permanent legal status. Photo via Pixabay.
November 8, 2017 (Sacramento) - Latino groups are speaking out against the decision by the Trump administration on Monday to end legal status for some people from Central America who were given temporary protected status over the past two decades.
The Temporary Protected Status (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 the nonprofit group Carecen, the largest Central American immigrants' organization in the country, says the federal government is making a very shortsighted decision.
"Sending back more of their nationals when their 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.," he states.
The TPS program has been renewed repeatedly since its inception. But Trump's Department of Homeland Security is changing course, saying that the countries are now stable enough for people to return.
The department put the decision on the fate of 86,000 Hondurans off for six months. And 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, says it would be cruel to tear parents away from their U.S.-born children, uprooting a group of people who came here legally and have set down roots.
"More than 50 percent of these folks have been here more than 20 years,” she points out. “A third of these Hondurans own homes. 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 of dollars in recent years trying to stabilize countries in Central America, where violent crime is rampant.
Nunez says Central American immigrants send billions of dollars in remittances back to their home countries each year, and the loss of that money would further destabilize the region.