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Thousands of Immigrants from Central America to Lose Their Temporary Protected Status

people-1031169_640-300x184Over 5,300 Nicaraguan immigrants will face deportation after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke announced that the agency will lift their Temporary Protected Status and work permits on January 5, 2019.

After Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in 1998, it left a devastated Nicaragua struggling to recover from massive damage to its infrastructure and economy. These conditions forced Nicaraguans to seek refuge in neighboring countries, most notably, in the United States, where they received Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from deportation and the ability to seek work permits to help them assimilate with American society.

After nearly 20 years of living and working legally in the US, these Nicaraguan immigrants stand to be uprooted once again after the DHS decided the situation in their home country no longer qualifies them for TPS.

In a press release posted on the DHS website, Acting Secretary Duke found that the significant but temporary conditions caused by Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua are no longer present, and thus, under applicable DHS statutes, the TPS designation of the Nicaraguan immigrants in question must be terminated.

The DHS added a 12-month extension after the January 5, 2018 expiration date of the Nicaraguans’ TPS, providing enough time for an orderly transition. According to the DHS, the extension would provide the necessary time for the migrants with TPS to seek alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible, or prepare for their departure from the country.

Duke added that the immigration program would not see another extension beyond the January 2019 program.

Duke also warned a group of Hondurans with Temporary Protected Status that they may soon lose their protections. For now, the DHS does not have sufficient information to decide on the protected status of more than 86,000 Hondurans in the country, which is why the agency has settled for a six-month extension on their protected status. Initially expiring by January 5, 2018, the TSP designation for Honduras will last until July 5, 2018.

Immigration advocates, however, view these changes to the TPS designations of Nicaragua and Honduras as part of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration crackdown. One organization in particular, UNITE HERE, a labor union composed of hospitality industry workers, expressed concern that the end of removal of TPS status to the group of Nicaraguans and Hondurans would have devastating effects on the economy and hundreds of thousands of immigrant families.

The administration, however, assures that former TPS-holders would not be facing expedited or prioritized deportation. That distinction belongs to undocumented immigrants with criminal records and a final order for removal.

If you, or a loved one, are under Temporary Protected Status and would like to know how these designation changes might affect you, talk to the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm and discuss your legal options. Call our offices today at (512) 215.5225 to schedule a consultation with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.