The Trump administration Monday upended the lives of 2,500 Nicaraguans and is on the cusp of doing the same with another 297,500 immigrants by ending the Temporary Protected Status designation that has allowed them to live and thrive in this country. It’s a shame that the administration didn’t wait, now that a group of congressional lawmakers is pushing legislation to create a pathway to legal residency for TPS recipients from Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador, too. Even though, it said it will continue to examine the needs of Hondurans here, the administration, unfortunately, seems determined to block that pathway.
Nicaraguan recipients were given 14 months to make arrangements to leave. Haitians, Hondurans, and Salvadorans are scared and anxious. But they are also worthy of another chance to stay in this country and they should be granted another 18-month extension:
▪ They are here legally, with the blessing of the United States.
▪ They’ve been allowed to work — they are not a burden. They send millions in remittances to home countries, making life better for relatives. Ejecting them from the United States will be a counterproductive economic double whammy. Not only will they be forced to leave jobs, homes, and businesses they have crafted, but whatever economic well-being TPS grantees bring to their home countries will be wiped out.
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▪ Many have children who were born and educated in America. These children are citizens. This administration has shown little concern about breaking up law-abiding undocumented families by deporting a mother or father. This is policy is stunning in its heartlessness.
▪ Conditions in their home countries are not as rosy or welcoming as the administration says.
▪ There is bipartisan legislation in Congress, introduced by a Miami lawmaker. It deserves a chance to be heard.
Congress created the Temporary Protected Status designation in 1990 for people whose countries are rocked by political or natural disasters. Haitians, for instance, were first granted TPS after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people in 2010, leaving widespread destruction.
But TPS wisely was granted not to all comers. In the case of Haitians, only those who arrived in the 12 months after the earthquake struck, by January 2011, were eligible. This kept the population small, now about 50,000, preventing an unmanageable flood of people, however understandable their need to escape dire conditions.
Last week, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo introduced the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residency Act, which would establish a route to permanent legal status for some Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans who arrived in the United States before Jan. 13, 2011. Reps. Frederica Wilson, Alcee Hastings and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gamely are on board. In the Senate, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio want to at least see TPS extended, as it has been in the past.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed the Department of Homeland Security that conditions have improved so much in Haiti and Central America that its nationals no longer merit TPS. However, drug and gang violence still spills blood in Central America. As for Haiti, Hurricane Matthew, in October 2016, was the worst hurricane to hit Haiti in 52 years, causing $2.8 billion in damage. Cholera, introduced by U.N. troops seven years ago, is diminished but still a killer; and almost eight years later, hurricane recovery remains an intractable challenge.
How is returning 50,000 Haitians now in the United States going to help?
The Trump administration should grant the 18-month extensions to all of these groups and let the legislation proceed. It’s time to abandon the narrative that immigrants have to leave for America to thrive. It’s a fallacy, and an insidious one.