The Washington Post is reporting that the State Department considers more than 300,000 Central Americans and Haitians living in the United States to no longer need Temporary Protected Status, which shields them from deportation.
The Post reported late Friday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, saying the conditions that had been used to justify their status no longer applied. The Post confirmed its information through several anonymous sources because the recommendation has not been made public yet.
Many of the Central Americans living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status were living in the U.S. illegally, but were given protection from deportation after Hurricane Mitch destroyed parts of Central America in 1998.
Further disasters and insecurity in the region led to renewal of TPS protection for nearly two decades.
The Department of Homeland Security must announce by Monday whether those protections will be renewed for 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans whose status will otherwise expire in January.
Congress established TPS in 1990 to keep foreign nationals from being returned forcibly to their homes when natural disasters or armed conflict made the situation dangerous.
The White House says TPS was never meant to be a way for people to become long-term U.S. residents. And The Post reports that Tillerson’s opinion is in keeping with the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce immigration to the United States.
In addition to the Hondurans and Nicaraguans, some 50,000 Haitian TPS recipients await a judgment on their fate later this month. Haiti remains embroiled in a cholera epidemic that began during recovery from a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Immigration advocacy groups fear the Trump administration will curtail the program by refusing to renew the protected status of some of the nine countries covered: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.