57,000 Hondurans who came to the United States under a temporary protection program that was signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990 may be leaving the country.
The Department of Homeland Security made an announcement that it will terminate the legal status of these people. The program allowed almost half a million people from ten different countries affected by natural disasters to take refuge in the U.S.
Trump administration is saying that the conditions in Honduras have improved sufficiently enough that Hondurans can go home, suspending their protected status in the U.S. Tens of thousands of Hondurans have until January 2020 to comply.
“Based on careful consideration of available information,” the announcement reads, “including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch that served as the basis for its TPS designation has decreased to a degree that it should no longer be regarded as substantial.”
Those under protected status, as well as activists for migrants, are devastated.
The New York Times interviewed multiple people currently under protected status. Some view returning to Honduras as a virtual death sentence.
“I have nothing in Honduras,” said Sonia Paza, who has lived in Los Angeles for 23 years. “To go back would be the kiss of death.”
“They find out that you were in America and take the little you have away from you, or kill you,” she said.
A coalition of interfaith leaders sent a letter to the administration with over 600 signatories. The DHS has made a similar announcement regarding Haitians and Salvadorans who are also under protected status, but the decision regarding Hondurans affects the largest group of immigrants yet.
The letter reads, “We believe it is unconscionable to send back the nearly 60,000 TPS holders from Honduras— who are our neighbors, our congregants, our pastors, and faith and community leaders—given the conditions. Should they be returned to Honduras, they would be at extreme risk of hunger, thirst, and homelessness. Vulnerable due to their affiliation with the U.S., they would be prime targets for extortion and violence. Without question, families would be torn apart as Honduran TPS parents are faced with the impossible decision to be separated from U.S. citizen children, or bring them into harm’s way.”
Trump ran on a rhetoric opposing illegal immigration. In doing so, he shored up white nationalists who, until then, had remained a silent fringe in American politics. Notably, Trump was criticized for saying there were “fine people on both sides” on a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that left a woman dead. Now, it appears his dog-whistle politics are beginning to manifest into actual policy.