tags: , , Press Releases

STATEMENT: Welcome News That Biden Considering TPS for Central American Countries After Devastating Hurricanes

Share This:

Douglas Rivlin: “Temporary Protected Status was created for this very scenario”

In an exclusive for Reuters, Ted Hesson writes that the incoming Biden administration is “considering a plan” to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections for those from Honduras and Guatemala who have been impacted by the devastating hurricanes in November.  TPS would grant temporary work authorization and protection from deportation for nationals from specific countries already living in the U.S. to help stabilize those countries as they go through a major crisis. Not only would the U.S. not deport people into unstable and dangerous countries, potentially spreading COVID-19, but workers from those  countries in the U.S. would be able to earn higher wages, thereby increasing the amount of remittances sent home to families to help stabilize fragile economies.

This potential and welcome news came after the Center for American Progress released a new report Monday highlighting the damage left behind from Hurricanes Eta and Iota and explaining how extending TPS to nationals from these countries already living in the U.S. will promote stability in the region and provide an opportunity for family members already in the U.S. to safely continue working.

The Reuters exclusive and CAP report follow a recent letter from Senators Cardin (D-MD), Kaine (D-VA), Warner (-VA), and Van Hollen (D-MD) to Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), urging him to take swift action once confirmed to protect Central Americans already living in the U.S.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communications at America’ Voice: 

We encourage the Biden administration to act aggressively once in office to use as many levers of presidential power as possible to alleviate the suffering of those dealing with the devastation left behind by hurricanes Eta and Iota. Temporary Protected Status was created for this very scenario and is a vital tool in the toolbox for a regional approach to addressing the factors pushing people to migrate from Central America. As the incoming Biden administration signals they want to take a new approach to managing migration, it makes sense that they would look for ways to help those already living in the U.S. to aid in the recovery from this year’s devastating hurricanes. 

President Trump’s disinvestment in Central America, the dismantling of programs to manage migration from the region and Trump’s cruel deterrence policies for migrants have taken a toll – in addition to the destruction of the hurricanes. While designating Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador for TPS would only be one of the measures needed to address migration from the region, it is an important one that  could have a huge benefit for the United States and for the region as part of an overall plan. 

Hesson’s reporting is excerpted below and available in full here:

The incoming Biden administration is considering a plan to shield more than a million immigrants from Honduras and Guatemala from deportation after the countries were battered by hurricanes in November, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is weighing whether to grant them Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The program allows people already in the United States at the time of the designation to stay and work legally if their home countries have been affected by natural disasters, armed conflicts or other events that prevent their safe return. The designations last six to 18 months and can be renewed.

… “They’re looking into TPS the same way they’re looking into a number of things to decide on the right course of action,” said one of the people, all of whom requested anonymity. “Circumstances on the ground certainly warrant that.”

A transition team spokesman declined to comment.

If Biden’s Democratic administration does grant TPS to Hondurans and Guatemalans, it would represent a major expansion of the program and the biggest use of that authority in decades.

… Trump attempted to phase out most enrollment in the TPS program, arguing the countries had recovered from natural disasters that happened years or decades ago, but the terminations were slowed by federal courts and the protections will remain in place at least until October 2021.

Biden’s campaign website called Trump attempts to roll back TPS “politically motivated” and Biden has said he would not return enrollees to unsafe countries.

If the Biden administration ultimately offers new TPS protections to Hondurans and Guatemalans, it could enthuse liberal Democrats but would risk criticism from Republicans who back Trump’s tougher approach to immigration, making it more difficult for Biden to pass the immigration bill he plans to introduce at the start of his term.

… The two hurricanes that powered through Central America in November, named Eta and Iota, killed more than 100 people in Honduras and forced more than 300,000 to be evacuated from their homes, with more than 125,000 still displaced in shelters, according to the Honduran government.

… The governments of both Honduras and Guatemala have called on the United States to issue new TPS designations for their nationals in the United States.

A group of four Democratic senators from the states of Virginia and Maryland sent a letter on Friday to Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee to become homeland security secretary, urging Mayorkas to “promptly” issue new TPS designations for Honduras and Guatemala, as well as for El Salvador and Nicaragua.

In Texas, 42-year-old Margarita Rivera, a Honduran immigrant living in the United States illegally and working at a cake shop, said flooding was so devastating in her hometown along the northern coast that many of her neighbors lost their homes and had to be rescued by boat.

“I would love if TPS were approved,” she said, explaining that it would be extremely difficult for her to survive and make ends meet in Honduras if she were deported.

Roughly 411,000 people of different nationalities have TPS protections, according to a 2019 report by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Some 79,000 Hondurans are already enrolled in the program under a 1999 designation issued by Democratic President Bill Clinton’s administration following hurricane damage. However, to be eligible, Hondurans must have been residing in the United States on or before Dec. 30, 1998.