United States sets end for temporary residency program for Nicaraguans

Around 86,000 Honduran immigrants may see their Temporary Protected Status terminated in 2018.   REUTERS  Lucas Jackson

The United States will end in January 2019 a special status given to 5,300 Nicaraguan immigrants that protects them from deportation.

At the same time, the U.S. administration extended the TPS for six months, until July 2018, for the same reason for some 86,160 Hondurans.

The decision to end the status for Nicaraguans could be seen as a move to fulfil Trump's vow to tighten restrictions on immigration.

The program was extended to both countries after Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998. TPS for Haitians expires January 22, 2018, and for Salvadorans, March 9, 2018. Haitians affected by the decision number 46,000.

But critics say the programme, which was created to offer temporary protection in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, has become a permanent fixture and allowed some immigrants to stay for nearly two decades by renewing their visas time and time again.

Amy Shannon -senior advisor for Alianza Americas, a regional network of Latin American and Caribbean immigrant organizations involved in negotiating for the decriminalization of migration in the region- said the elimination of TPS would affect more people than the recent termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Ms Duke said she recognised "the difficulty facing citizens of Nicaragua - and potentially citizens of other countries - who have received TPS designation for close to two decades" and called on the US Congress "to enact a permanent solution for this inherently temporary programme".

TPS is granted to immigrants from a handful of countries that have been beset by crises like war or natural disaster. At tomorrow's confirmation hearing, Senators will have an opportunity to seek clarity from Nielsen about the direction the department will take on TPS and other immigration matters.

In September, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the president of El Salvador spoke to the United Nations General Assembly and asked that the USA extend TPS to the 195,000 Salvadorans already living in the country. They also made clear that the DHS would not specifically target TPS holders who become undocumented once their status expires, but that they would still "prioritize criminal aliens". Every 6 to 18 months, immigration officials determine whether TPS is extended for each country.

"We have had to renew our work permits constantly but it is different under this administration", she said. "This is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to dehumanize immigrants and communities of color, particularly when they are in their greatest need".

Former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras James (Jim) D. Nealon also urged the Trump administration to extend TPS, saying, "it makes no sense to send [citizens of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador] back to their country of origin". Earlier this year, the Trump administration ended TPS for Sudanese recipients, who were told to arrange their departure or find another way to legally stay in the United States once their status expires in November 2018.

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