“TPS was created by Congress 30 years ago to address precisely this type of situation.”
A new report from the Center for American Progress calls for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to be extended to Central American countries recently devastated by Hurricanes Eta and Iota. The report explains that extending TPS to nationals from these countries already living in the U.S. will promote stability and provide an opportunity for family members to safely continue working here and sending remittances back home, injecting money into Central American economies and providing much-needed security. The looming humanitarian crisis in Central American countries like Guatemala and Honduras create the exact conditions that merit TPS designation.
The brief is excerpted below and can be read in full here:
In November, two deadly hurricanes, Eta and Iota, hit several Central American countries back to back, causing widespread devastation from high winds, landslides, mudslides, and flooding across Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and other countries. While it will take time to know the full extent of the damage, Oxfam reports that so far 11 million people have been affected throughout the region, with 800,000 evacuated from their communities.
… While the damage from the hurricanes alone is sufficient to warrant TPS designations for the affected countries, it is important to understand how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout will further complicate the ability of these countries to safely and adequately accept the return of their nationals from abroad and to swiftly rebuild. Particularly in Guatemala and Honduras, ongoing corruption and years of neglect and mismanagement have aggravated these governments’ capacity to respond to the storms. Even before the hurricanes hit, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador had weak health care systems struggling to adequately fight the spread of the virus.41 In Guatemala, there were reports of undertesting, overcrowded hospitals, delays in paying doctors, and lack of basic medical supplies and personal protective equipment in hospitals. According to a Honduran scientist, in mid-summer that country was performing only a limited number of tests each day and had a small number of machines to process them; the country’s hospitals were also at or near capacity. At a time when public health facilities were already stretched thin, hurricanes Eta and Iota made things worse, significantly increasing the need for adequate public health resources while causing severe physical damage to health care facilities throughout the region: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported that the hurricanes damaged more than 400 health facilities in Honduras and more than 200 health facilities in Guatemala. PAHO also reported that a total of 640 COVID-19 testing centers in Honduras and Nicaragua were hit by the hurricanes. Not only will the damage to the health care infrastructure of these nations further weaken their ability to respond to the pandemic, but it also will make it more difficult to address injuries and illnesses resulting from the lack of clean water, sanitation, and adequate nutrition that is increasingly pervasive in many regions.
… Granting TPS—together with providing immediate and medium-term humanitarian assistance that is channeled through international and local civil society organizations, given the extraordinarily high levels of government corruption in several countries—can help the United States reestablish its role in promoting human rights, economic stability, and human security in the region.
During his time as vice president, President-elect Joe Biden led the U.S. effort to address the root causes of migration and forge an alliance for prosperity with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; even before the devastation of the coronavirus and these two recent hurricanes, the approach taken by the Trump administration greatly undermined this work.
A decision to designate Guatemala for TPS and redesignate Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador could be announced as part of a comprehensive plan by the Biden administration to promote human security and stability in the region, which would include additional humanitarian support and diplomatic engagement.
…An offer of TPS to people from the affected Central American countries will stand in particular contrast to the approach of the current administration, which has not only worked to end existing TPS designations but has also contributed to the international spread of the coronavirus through its reckless detention and deportation practices.62
…The incoming Biden administration should promptly use the authority provided to it by Congress to protect human life and promote recovery and rebuilding.”