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Bipartisan House Members Urge Biden Administration To Expand Protections For Nicaraguan Immigrants

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Forty-four bipartisan members of Congress are urging the Biden administration to expand temporary protections for Nicaragua. While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made the right move earlier this year by rescinding the Trump administration’s termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua and extending relief for another 18 months through June 2024, it did not redesignate its status]. 

This means that beneficiaries who applied under the initial designation may reapply for relief, but because TPS was not redesignated, immigrants who’ve arrived since are ineligible. Lawmakers cite a “dire humanitarian situation” that poses a direct threat to immigrants who could face separation from their families and deportation to Nicaragua.

“As you well know, Nicaragua is facing a socio-political and humanitarian crisis that has been worsening for years,” the letter states. “President Ortega’s regime has repeatedly violated human rights, suppressed political dissent, and engaged in acts of violence against its citizens. As recently as September 12, the United Nations has warned of escalating attacks against Nicaraguan civil society.”

The letter cites attacks on more than 220 political prisoners who were forced into statelessness when the regime stripped them of their citizenship. These individuals, which included a U.S. citizen, journalists, and students, were subsequently welcomed to the U.S. “Upon the release of these individuals from Nicaragua, the United States facilitated their safe transport to Dulles International Airport,” the U.S. State Department said in February. “The individuals arrived today, and the United States is providing medical and legal support to ease their arrival.”

“A TPS redesignation for Nicaragua would undoubtedly save lives and be one of the most consequential immigration policies to date for the administration,” the lawmakers continue in the letter. “A redesignation would provide security and opportunity to those already living in the United States and waiting in legal limbo.”

“Furthermore, it would give these individuals, many of whom are already strongly integrated into their communities, permission to work and access key benefits. We believe this would be a missed opportunity to stand up for the values of human rights, democracy, and compassion for communities around the United States.”

While DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has previously said the administration doesn’t “have any intention right now to re-designate Nicaragua for Temporary Protected Status,” he indicated the administration does “continuously review the country conditions.”

“We expect that a closer examination of the dire humanitarian situation in Nicaragua and the uncertainty of thousands who reside in the United States – including more than 200 who have been rendered stateless – will lead to a finding that TPS redesignation is necessary for Nicaragua,” lawmakers write. “Given this and the deteriorating rule of law situation, we urgently request your administration to re-designate TPS for Nicaragua.” The Biden administration has announced a number of TPS redesignations in recent weeks, for Afghanistan in September and Cameroon earlier this month. When the vast majority of Republicans in Congress continue to push unworkable border extremism over realistic solutions, the Biden administration can and must continue to use its authority under existing law to act.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is among leaders outside of Congress urging the Biden administration to act on relief for Nicaragua, writing in a Spanish-language op-ed at Univision that “Miami has shown the entire country that when immigrants have an opportunity to belong and contribute, we all benefit.”

“Our local economy has benefited the most from the entrepreneurship and success of immigrants who have come here seeking freedom and an opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Mayor Cava continued, noting that some Nicaraguan immigrants have lived in the U.S. for two decades. “According to a recent study, immigrants own three of every four businesses in our county, represent 65% of our workforce, and in 2019 contributed more than half of the county’s total gross domestic product.”

Mayor Cava also applauded the recent extension and redesignation of Venezuela for TPS, saying that the decision “will offer immediate help to thousands of immigrants who have arrived to our shores escaping tyranny, oppression, war and human rights violations.” In New York City, where roughly 60,000 Venezuelan immigrants are eligible for relief under the expansion, a number of community organizations have been working to help eligible families with their applications. “It’s time to give it my all to whatever comes my way and always keep my head held high and stay positive,” one applicant told NBC News.

The Biden administration has been trying to find solutions that it can implement under existing law without needing new legislation, which is being blocked by obstructionist Republicans in Congress. TPS for Nicaragua is one – and it even has some GOP support.