Temporary Protected Status of some immigrants
TPS ON SHAKY GROUND: Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke must decide today whether tens of thousands of people from Honduras and thousands from Nicaragua will continue to receive temporary protected status. Here's how the program works: If a country experiences a natural disaster, armed conflict, or some other extraordinary event, the DHS secretary can extend protected status to its nationals for up to 18 months if they're in the U.S. at the time of the event. Hondurans and Nicaraguans were initially granted TPS after Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in 1998; subsequently they received an extended series of renewals. Now protected status for the two countries is due to expire on Jan. 5. The department will also face decisions on TPS for Haiti later this month and for El Salvador in January.
The Trump administration has signaled it won't continue the virtually automatic renewals that were common in the past. Along those lines, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in a letter to Duke last week that conditions in Central America and Haiti no longer warranted a TPS designation, Nick Miroff and Karen DeYoung reported in the Washington Post Friday evening. "Tillerson's letter does not amount to a recommendation," the Post reported. "But DHS is required to seek the agency's input, and officials said the State Department's position carries significant weight." People from the aforementioned countries - Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador - make up 94 percent of the roughly 439,000 approved for the program at the end of 2016.
A Homeland Security Department spokesman said on Sunday that a final decision had not been reached on Honduras and Nicaragua. In one scenario, the administration could terminate the TPS designation for the countries, but offer a final extension of 6-18 months. Such a move could pressure Congress to provide a legislative solution that would allow enrollees to obtain legal status. But whether lawmakers can find common ground on a bill remains uncertain, since they're already grappling over immigration legislation (more on that below).