By LUIS ALONSO LUGO,
WASHINGTON (AP) — A temporary residency permit program has aided 5,000 citizens from Nicaragua who have lived in the United States for almost two decades. Now the Trump administration is planning to end that program in January 2019.
A decision about how to deal with a similar program for 86,000 residents from Honduras is expected in July.
The acting homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, said Monday that the program, known as Temporary Protected Status, is no longer necessary for Nicaraguans in the U.S. Duke said temporary residents living under that permit would have 12 months to allow for an orderly transition for their return and for their Central American homeland.
Duke postponed a final decision in the case of Honduras in order to learn more information, automatically extending the current temporary permits for Hondurans in the U.S. for six months, until July 5. The department’s announcement came 60 days before the programs for both countries were set to expire on Jan. 5.
The program currently covers 435,000 people from nine countries ravaged by natural disasters or war and who came to the U.S., legally or otherwise, during the period their countries were covered by the presidential decree.
That status was meant to be temporary, but it was repeatedly renewed by the Bush and Obama administrations over concerns that the countries could not cope with the repatriation of so many people former residents.
The top House Democrat said the administration’s decision “was a cowardly assault” that will split families and tear apart communities.
“With this act of senseless prejudice, the administration is once again putting bigotry over our nation’s values and security,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “This is a dark night of heartbreak and tears for thousands of families targeted by this decision and all the others fearful of losing” their protected status.
She urged Congress to pass “a permanent, bipartisan fix” if the White House refuses to reconsider its decision.
Since taking office, Trump has ended the temporary permit program for Sudan and issued a shorter-than-usual renewal for nearly 60,000 Haitians, who were designated for temporary permits after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua have been able to renew their temporary permits every 18 months since 1999, when both countries were given TPS status by the Clinton administration due to destruction from Hurricane Mitch a year earlier.
The Congressional Research Service said this month that only 57,000 people from Honduras and 2,550 from Nicaragua were expected to renew their TPS status.