Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a form of humanitarian-based immigration law relief. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the power to grant TPS to nationals of countries that are deemed to be too unsafe for the United States to send people. In some cases, TPS is granted after major natural disasters; in other cases it is granted because of war or political unrest.
In November of 2017, Elaine Duke — who was serving as the interim head of DHS — made the decision to end protected status for Nicaraguans. Her decision meant that Nicaraguans would lose TPS status as of June of 2019. However, this decision did not last long. Within several hours, she trimmed six months off of the timeline. Nicaraguans are now set to lose TPS status as of January 1st, 2019.
New Emails: The White House Pressured DHS
A federal lawsuit was filed against the United States government soon after the decision to end TPS for citizens of Nicaragua. In August, CNN and other media outlets were able to gain access to emails uncovered during this lawsuit. These documents put the DHS decision in an entirely new light. According to the reporting, officials within the White House pushed hard on DHS to get TPS protections cut for Nicaraguans and for TPS to be cut for vulnerable people from other dangerous regions. Notably, earlier this year, the Trump Administration ended temporary protected status for Salvadorans.
The Situation in Nicaragua Continues to Deteriorate
The purpose of TPS is to provide protection to vulnerable people who are from countries that have serious safety issues. It is only appropriate to end TPS when the situation on the ground has changed for the better. However, that is not what is currently happening in Nicaragua. Quite the contrary; there are major problems in the country right now. Sending people back to Nicaragua will put their health, safety and wellbeing at serious risk.
According to information provided by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) more than 300 people have been killed in the civil unrest in the country since April of 2018. Many thousands more innocent people have been severely injured. Sadly, children and young adults have been caught up in the violence.
Protests continue against the Nicaraguan government and there is reason to believe that things may continue to worsen, at least for the time being. DHS justified the end of TPS and the shortening of the remaining TPS period from 18 months to 12 months on the grounds that the situation in Nicaragua has changed for the better. That simply does not line up with the facts.
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