President Trump’s administration took a step ending legal status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants previously granted emergency permission to live in the U.S., according to a report.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed the Department of Homeland Security that crises in Haiti and certain Central American countries have abated, a key factor in determining whether individuals from those nations are eligible to live and work in the U.S. That determination could lead DHS to revoke their Temporary Protected Status at a review mandated by federal law.
"No decisions have been announced regarding TPS for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. “We have no comments on internal and interagency deliberation. I would refer you to DHS for additional information.”
DHS also declined to comment in advance of Monday’s renewal deadline. “No decision has been made,” spokesman Tyler Houlton said.
The State Department reportedly provided its update on Tuesday. “Tillerson sent a letter to acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke to inform her that conditions in Central America and Haiti that had been used to justify the protection no longer necessitate a reprieve for the migrants, some of whom have been allowed to live and work in the United States for 20 years under a program known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS),” the Washington Post reported Friday.
Foreign leaders have lobbied for the Trump administration to extend the legal status, which covers about 300,000 people, citing humanitarian and economic reasons.
"We recognize that it's a sovereign decision of the U.S., but we see also how troubled our compatriots are," Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández said in June during a diplomatic conference hosted by the State Department. "These are people who are working or paying their taxes, and we hope that when the time comes, they follow this process in the U.S., that we will have the opportunity to have a renewal of the TPS or some way to have our countrymen continue to live in this country."
Hernández made those remarks during a summit in which Tillerson called for governments such as Honduras to make major infrastructure investments in order to encourage their citizens to remain in their home countries rather than flee to the U.S. In that sense, the Trump team may have an incentive to allow TPS beneficiaries to remain in the U.S. because the money they send home represents a major part of those economies; about one-fifth of Honduras’ gross domestic product comes from individuals working in America.
"These are people who are the best immigrants that you can have in this country,” Hernandez said.
Trump’s team believes that their return could help their home countries. “Administration officials have also said that the return of tens of thousands of migrants could benefit the Central American nations and Haiti, because their citizens will return with job skills, democratic values and personal savings acquired from living long term in the United States,” according to the Post.
John Kelly, who served as head of the DHS before taking over as White House chief of staff, has emphasized that federal law mandates that the legal status be provided only as long as an emergency situation obtains in their home country.
“TPS is not supposed to continue to be enforced until Haiti’s like Jamaica, or any country with a very functioning democracy [or] a relatively low unemployment rate,” Kelly told the Miami Herald in June. “That’s not the point of it.”