The Trump Administration formally announced its plan to put an end to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program that has allowed certain Nicaraguans to live and work in the United States. TPS status is granted to eligible nationals of certain countries who are already in the United States due to conditions in their home country that temporarily prevent them from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. TPS is granted in situations wherein there are extraordinarily adverse conditions such as environmental disasters (e.g.; earthquakes, hurricanes), epidemics, or ongoing armed conflicts (e.g.; civil wars).
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced this week that about 2,500 Nicaraguans who have TPS must leave the United States by January 5, 2019 or seek another avenue for legal residency. Noteworthy is the fact that the TPS designation has heretofore allowed Nicaraguans to remain in the United States for nearly two decades, when they were originally shielded from deportation following Hurricane Mitch which hit Central America in 1998, with routine renewals since that juncture. Importantly, the 1998 hurricane killed more than 2,000 people and caused over $1 billion in damage. DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke explained that the reason for termination of the TPS Designation was because the adverse conditions in Nicaragua caused by Hurricane Mitch no longer exist. Reportedly the rationale was that although leaders from both Honduras and El Salvador have actively waged lobbying campaigns to renew TPS, Nicaragua's government did not request a TPS extension.
Unlike Nicaraguans, Hondurans will get an extension of their TPS designation but there is no decision yet regarding TPS for 50,000 Haitians and 200,000 Salvadorans whose TPS status is due to expire early next year. As such, it is critical that individuals currently under a TPS designation know their rights and explore all of the possibilities for eligibility and alternative avenues for legal residency.
At the Shulman Law Group, we encourage TPS recipients from Nicaragua not to wait until the deadline of January 2019 to consult with an immigration attorney about their cases, particularly since new applications require time to process and they do not want to be faced with a potentially avoidable deportation situation. Likewise, those individuals with TPS from Haiti and El Salvador should also seek counsel since their TPS status is currently pending possible termination as well. While there are clearly humanitarian issues at play, and our law firm deeply empathizes with those individuals who have held their TPS for as long as 20 years having to face removal, we feel that the best way to combat adversity is through education, advocacy, and preparation. We are here to help, to provide support, and to apply our decades of legal expertise to assist individuals with TPS to explore alternatives to prevent removal from the United States.