State Department Says Protected Status No Longer Justified for Central Americans and Haitians in U.S.

Over 300,000 Central Americans and Haitians living in the United States under a form of temporary permission no longer need to be shielded from deportation, the State Department told Homeland Security officials this week, a few days ahead of a highly anticipated DHS announcement about whether to renew that protection.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke to inform her that conditions in Central America and Haiti that had been used to justify the protection no longer necessitate a reprieve for the migrants, some of whom have been allowed to live and work in the United States for 20 years under a program known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

DHS is expected to announce its plans for about 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans by Monday, whose protection under the program expires in January.

Temporary protected status was implemented in 1990 to protect foreign nationals from being returned to their countries amid instability and precarious conditions caused by natural disasters or armed conflict. TPC has been frequently extended and renewed by presidential administrations and the actual administration extended the protections in May, but warned that recipients should prepare to leave the U.S. in case the program was not continued. If that happens, immigrants will have a six month period to prepare for departure to their home country.

Trump administration officials have argued that the program was meant to be temporary, not a way for immigrant to become long-term residents. They say that the disasters that happened many years ago, shouldn’t be used to extend provisional status because the justification that led to that status no longer exists.

Officials have also said that the return of migrants could benefit the Central American nations and Haiti, because their citizens will return with job skills, democratic values and personal savings, but many of the immigrants have homes, businesses and U.S.-born children.

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