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Sen. Kaine, Rep. Soto & Advocates Ask Biden Administration to Designate Countries Devastated by Hurricanes Eta & Iota With TPS 

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A recording of the call is available here.

Earlier today advocates, experts, and impacted persons gathered on a press call to discuss the urgent need for the Biden Administration to designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Central American countries devastated by hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Back-to-back hurricanes Eta and Iota ripped through Central American last November, and have left the region to a difficult recovery already exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several countries including Guatemala and Honduras have asked for TPS in the wake of the devastation.

Nancy Ruiz, Essential Janitorial and Home Care Worker from Honduras said, “I am the mother of a beautiful 7 year old girl, she was born in New York, for her I give everything so that she can fulfill her dreams, study and have a safe roof. President Biden, in Honduras there is a lot of destruction caused by the two hurricanes of 2020 and the deep poverty. A new TPS for Honduras would change my life, my daughter’s and my mother’s. I want to have more job opportunities, pay for health insurance, I want to get trained as a nurse to take care of other people. And most importantly, that they don’t separate me from my daughter.”

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) said, “I lived in Honduras in 1980 and ‘81, so that gives me a particular interest in the TPS program; I have focused a lot of attention on it since coming to the Senate in 2013. When we did comprehensive immigration reform in 2013; I worked hard to make sure that that bill in the Senate included strong protection for TPS recipients, including a path for them to move towards citizenship. I’m also a cosponsor of the SECURE Act, which would give current individuals with TPS the ability to apply for legal permanent residency… 58,000 TPS recipients from the countries of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan live in the DMV area, and they are strong contributors to our communities and our economy. The Trump administration, over and over again, tried to terminate the TPS programs for more than 400,000 TPS residents in the US. President Biden called these terminations politically motivated… I’m pleased that Joe Biden has said immigration reform is a first priority. Just as I did in 2013, I’m going to not only write the administration and urge them to take appropriate administrative action, but I’m going to do all I can to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform gets done for the first time since 1986 and when it gets done, it provides ample protections for TPS recipients.”

Representative Darren Soto (FL-09) said, “It’s a new day in Washington particularly as we look for a more human, more comprehensive, and more workable immigration policy here in the United States under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris. Whether it is the extension of DACA or whether it is Temporary Protected Status. Folks from Central America including Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala already have the temporary protected status. We have many folks who live in Florida, some of which have called Florida their home for nearly 20 years. This is another key TPS issue. This is exactly what the temporary protected system program was intended to help remedy. A key distinction is that TPS is a more firm status — it provides for extensions. We need to think long term for people who are here with their families in the United States. Our TPS communities are a priority for Congress.”

“We call on the Biden administration to follow through and promptly issue a new TPS designation to protect nationals from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador,” said Oscar A. Chacón, Executive Director at Alianza Americas. “Such a measure will keep current TPS holders and their families protected, while also protecting other Central Americas. Central American nations would benefit greatly by this measure as they recover from the damage inflicted by Covid-19 and devastating natural disasters that hit them in 2020.”

Tom Jawetz, Vice President of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress said, “Based upon the level of economic damage; loss of homes and livelihoods; exacerbated and widespread food insecurity; and destruction of critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, airports, and public health facilities resulting from these two unprecedented hurricanes—particularly in the middle of an ongoing pandemic that has already wreaked havoc on the countries’ public health systems and economies—the four countries hit by hurricanes Eta and Iota undoubtedly merit TPS designations based upon one or two of the grounds that I described above. Because TPS is triggered by acute events that render a country temporarily unable to safely and adequately handle the return of its nationals, TPS is fundamentally about not making a bad situation worse while work is done to ameliorate those bad conditions and restore human safety and security. TPS is an important tool to help ensure that our other interventions, including the emergency and humanitarian aid already directed at these countries through USAID and the $4 billion of investment that the Biden administration has pledged, have the opportunity to work. Under the circumstances, new TPS designations are both the smart and humane thing to do and will only reinforce the administration’s efforts to constructively reengage with the governments and civil society in the region.”

George Redman, Country Director (Honduras) at Oxfam said, “In my 20 years in Honduras, I have never seen a situation so desperate, and I have never seen people so lacking in hope for any change in the short-term that is going to improve their situation. Even prior to the COVID pandemic and the hurricanes, the underlying factors of migration were largely unaddressed, and they are now being dramatically exacerbated. At the beginning of last year, a report came out that indicated that 1.1 million Honduran children were out of the public education system in 2019. The health system collapsed before the pandemic, and a bad situation has gotten dramatically worse in the past year. Due to corruption; Honduras loses around 12.5% of its GDP; to put that in perspective, that’s about 5 times its health budget. We now know that 59% of migrants from Honduras are now women, and that violence against women and girls requires far more attention and action than its currently seen from the Honduran government. There are preexisting, unaddressed push factors of migration which we have seen exacerbated for the past year due to the pandemic, the elimination of the anti-corruption mission, and the hurricanes. The U.S. government is in an excellent position to start to address those in the short term.”