A host of leading voices are urging the Biden administration to protect our immigrant neighbors by redesignating a number of Central American nations for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian tool that allows individuals to continue living and working in the U.S. when conditions in their home countries make it too dangerous for them to return.
In their letter, the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) say TPS was designed by Congress for the exact kind of crises facing El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which continue to struggle due to political turmoil, environmental catastrophes, and the effects of climate change.
“As the President seeks to continue the work of his Administration to deliver for Latino and immigrant communities throughout the country, he should use every tool in his administrative toolbox to extend immigration relief where possible,” CHC Chair Nanette Barragán and Deputy Chair Adriano Espaillat said this week. “Redesignating El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua for TPS is not just the right thing to do for the country, but it is the right decision on the merits since TPS is a humanitarian tool specifically designed to address situations like those that are facing these Central American nations.”
While the Biden administration has announced more than $4 billion in investments to address the complex issue of Central American migration, redesignating these nations for TPS can further help in stabilizing the region, CHC leaders said. This is because work authorizations will encourage remittances to family members and loved ones back home.
“We urge the President to act as quickly as possible to redesignate these countries that are ripe for new designations and to begin the process of considering other Latin American countries such as Guatemala that may qualify for TPS or other forms of relief such as Deferred Enforced Departure,” Barragán and Espaillat continued. Should Guatemala get an initial designation, and El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua get redesignations, more than 1.5 million new individuals could be eligible for relief, TPS For Central America said.
Oxfam and Save the Children similarly urged relief for Honduras and El Salvador, saying that as humanitarian organizations they’ve witnessed “the severe environmental damage caused by hurricanes and climate change-related catastrophes.”
In Honduras, nearly a million people have been displaced by Hurricanes Eta and Iota as criminal groups have targeted women and indigenous people, they said. In El Salvador, the authoritarian Bukele regime has implemented a “state of exception” where “state officials have committed widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, torture, inhumane treatment, and deaths in custody, specifically targeting young people in poor neighborhoods.”
They note that the State Department has issued a “Reconsider Travel” warning Americans about traveling to Honduras and El Salvador. “Reconsider Travel” is just “one level below a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning,” groups said. Salvadoran and Honduran immigrants make up the largest share of TPS beneficiaries, have U.S. citizen children, and have lived in the U.S. for as long as two decades. It would be both inhumane and wrong for our nation to uproot them and send them back to danger — especially when its warned Americans about not traveling to these same regions.
“The immediate and tangible humanitarian benefits of TPS would help advance life-saving and stability-enhancing remittances to the region,” Oxfam and Save the Children continued. “We urge you to re-designate TPS for El Salvador and Honduras.”
120 faith-based groups spanning international, national, and local religious organizations are also urging relief for Nicaragua, citing “deteriorating social and environmental conditions which prevent Nicaraguan nationals from safely returning to their homeland.” They write that redesignating TPS for Nicaragua “would bring relief to thousands of Nicaraguans who have been forced to flee their homes due to worsening conditions over the years.”
“Undoubtedly, Nicaragua is facing the aftermath of an environmental disaster caused by Tropical Storm Julia at the end of 2022 as well as suffering from one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world since 2000. Many communities on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast remain devastated from back-to-back Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2021.” Coupled with “multiple human rights concerns,” the faith groups say that a quarter of a million Nicaraguans had to flee their homes in 2022 alone.
“As faith-based organizations, we have watched with deep concern, along with so many others around the world, the unfolding events in Nicaragua and the suffering of the Nicaraguan people,” the faith organizations said. “We believe wholeheartedly in protecting the sanctity of all human life. This includes addressing situations in which people are needlessly put into harm’s way.”
President Biden should use his authority under law to protect immigrants who have already been working, paying taxes, and building families here by redesignating El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It would not only be a humanitarian win, but in keeping with his campaign commitment to live up to our values as a welcoming country. He should expand relief to Guatemala, as well as African nations like Mauritania, where widespread human rights violations, forced statelessness, and the continuing practice of enslaving its Black population merits designation.