On May 4, 2018, the Administration announced that it will end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans. TPS was offered to Hondurans already in the U.S., following the devastation that Hurricane Mitch caused in their country in October 1998.
Congress created TPS to allow citizens of countries hard hit by natural disasters or civil conflict who are already in the U.S., to apply to stay and work here legally until our government determines they can safely return. TPS is normally granted and extended in 12 or 18-month increments.
The decision to terminate TPS, following one final 18 month extention until January 5, 2020, will affect about 57,000 Honduran citizens who have been living and working legally in the U.S. since 1999. Their TPS has been repeatedly renewed as Honduras has struggled with environmental and political turmoil, and has become infamous for having one of the highest homicide rates in the world. A 2017 report by the U.S. State Department’s Office of Diplomatic Security highlights Honduras’s high crime rates, including kidnappings, robberies, extortion, homicides and gang violence, and also difficult living conditions such as limited available medical care and damage to infrastructure due to frequent hurricanes, flooding and mudslides. Since January 2018, the U.S. State Department has warned travelers to reconsider going to Honduras – just one level shy of their highest “Do Not Travel” warning. The Administration’s decision to terminate TPS flies in the face of ample evidence that it is not safe for Hondurans to return.
Data from the Center for Migration Studies shows that Hondurans with TPS have lived in the U.S. an average of 22 years, are estimated to be the parents of over 53,000 U.S. citizen children, and nearly 10,000 are homeowners. Their workforce participation, at 85%, is also higher than that of native-born U.S. citizens, at 63%.
On April 26, 2018, the Administration also announced that it would end TPS for citizens from Nepal who were granted TPS following the earthquake in 2015. Previously, it had announced the end of TPS for Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Sudanese.
Altogether, ending TPS for these countries means the removal of over 300,000 individuals from our communities. The human toll as families are divided is incalculable, but there will also be enormous economic costs in lost contributions to Social Security and Medicare, and decreases in our GDP, without even calculating the government’s cost to deport those whose TPS is terminated.
As the nation’s, and Maine’s unemployment rates hit record lows, can we really afford to lose these TPS holders? Together with the estimated 720,000 community members and workers at risk of losing their status following the Administration’s rescission of the DACA program, the Administration’s termination of TPS will force over 1,000,000 people out of our economy when we need them more than ever.
Congress must pass legislation to create a path to permanent residency for long-term TPS holders. Various bills have been proposed to do just that. Maine’s Congressional delegation should work to resolve this issue urgently.