By Alicia A. Caldwell, The Wall Street Journal
The Trump administration on Friday said it would end a humanitarian program for tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants living in the U.S. since the 1990s.
As many as 57,000 Honduran immigrants have been allowed to live and work in the U.S. since 1999, when immigrants from the Central American country were granted Temporary Protected Status after the Hurricane Mitch devastated parts of Honduras the previous year. They now will have to leave or be granted another immigration status by January 2020.
“Since 1999, conditions in Honduras that resulted from the hurricane have notably improved,” the Homeland Security Department said in a statement.
Supporters of the TPS program, which gives safe harbor in the U.S. to people from countries affected by natural disasters and other strife, decried the decision Friday, saying Honduras is still unsafe.
“After delaying its decision, it is baffling that any additional information provided to the Department of Homeland Security since November could have led them to make this cruel, misinformed decision on TPS for Honduras,” said Geoff Thale, vice president for programs at the Washington Office on Latin America. “Honduras has not become more safe, it has become more dangerous in the past six months.”
A decision after the fate of the TPS program had been due late last year, but then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke opted not to take action, giving the group a six-month reprieve. At the same time, the administration announced plans to end such protections for roughly 260,000 immigrants from El Salvador and thousands of other people from Haiti.
Immigrants from those countries were given about a year to either leave the U.S. or apply for another immigration status to stay in the country legally.
President Donald Trump has vowed to crack down on legal and illegal immigration, pledging to deport immigrants found to be living in the U.S. illegally and proposing cuts to visa programs. The administration so far has announced the ending of the temporary protections for half of the 10 countries whose citizens were allowed to stay in the U.S. under the TPS program.
In November, Ms. Duke said she didn’t have enough information about the conditions inside Honduras to make a final decision, putting it off until now. Immigration advocates and other supporters of the program have long expected Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to announce its cancellation.
Administration officials have said decisions to end various TPS programs were based on how a given country has recovered from a natural disaster, political upheaval or other internal strife that led to the designation in the first place.
Supporters of the program have argued that none of the affected countries have stabilized enough to justify forcing thousands of people back. In the case of Central America, many Democratic lawmakers have pointed to the continuing violence and political instability in calls to renew the protections.
Tens of thousands of immigrants from Central America have come to the U.S. in recent years. Many have asked for asylum and pointed to widespread gang violence, corruption and poverty as evidence that their home country isn’t safe. When TPS end for Hondurans, the program will have let people live in the U.S. for 21 years.