Nearly 60,000 Hondurans learned today that they will no longer be able to remain in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), placing them at risk of deportation when termination takes effect in 18 months. Having lawfully resided in the United States for many years, Honduran TPS holders now face the impossible choice of whether to leave the homes and families they’ve created in the United States only to face an unfamiliar country plagued by pervasive violence.
The Trump administration has been on a steady crusade against TPS, Honduras being the seventh decision to terminate a country’s designation for TPS (or a related form of relief called Deferred Enforced Departure) in just the past eight months. Honduras is the last of the large TPS designations to be cut, with El Salvador (195,000 beneficiaries), Haiti (46,000 beneficiaries) and Nepal (8,950 beneficiaries) all being ended since November.
Honduras was originally designated for TPS in 1999 following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Mitch, the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record that left millions homeless. Since that time, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department have regularly reviewed country conditions, finding that Honduras continued to meet the conditions for a TPS designation as required by law.
In past decisions to extend TPS, the Secretary of Homeland Security appropriately looked at a range of relevant issues that complicated the Government of Honduras’ ability to recover from the disaster and absorb the return of tens of thousands of its nationals, including: the availability of ample housing; the existence of critical infrastructure; the reliability of power sources; the availability of sufficient food and clean water; the stability of the Honduran economy; and how new environmental disasters have complicated recovery.
Equally important is the incredible violence that has terrorized many Hondurans, triggering outflows of asylum seekers in search of safety. With one of the highest murder rates in the world, gang violence and organized crime are ever-present. Women and girls also face abuse, rape, and inescapable pressure to become a “gang girlfriend” with near-total impunity. For long-residing Honduran TPS holders, the thought of returning to Honduras can be a terrifying prospect.
More than half of Honduran TPS holders have lived in the United States for over 20 years, building their lives, families, and homes here. They are parents to over 50,000 U.S.-born children and 22 percent have invested in their communities through home ownership. In addition, 85 percent participate in the work force, and are especially valued employees in the construction, childcare, landscaping and restaurants sectors where they are most heavily concentrated. When they lose the ability to work legally next year, the economies of Texas, Florida, North Carolina and California will be the hardest hit as families there struggle to make ends meet.
Now that the Trump administration has decided to end TPS for Honduras, we must look for ways to provide a path to permanency. Who gains when people who have lawfully lived and worked in the United States for so many years suddenly must leave? Not only do they suffer, but so do the well-being of their families, communities, and employers. Congress can help avoid these punitive and reckless consequences by creating solutions for long-residing and well-integrated noncitizens.
This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. on May 5, 2018 to reflect the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Honduras.