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Hondurans and Nicaraguans face TPS deadline to remain in the country legally

by Carmen Sesin and Suzanne Gamboa /
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Non-profit organizations across the country are working to renew the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Nicaraguans and Hondurans who have until February 13 to file their papers.

In November, the Trump administration announced they would not extend TPS for Nicaraguans and gave them 14 months to leave the country, but they still need to renew their status in order to remain in the country legally. TPS had allowed the group of about 2,500 to remain in the U.S. legally for almost two decades.

For Hondurans with provisional residency - a group that totals about 57,000 - their status was extended for six months starting in November because officials said they needed more time and more conclusive information to make a final decision. Regardless of their fate, they must also renew their status every year and a half with the Department of Homeland Security.

Hondurans who don’t register before February 13, won’t be eligible to remain in the country if DHS decides to give them another 18 months of protected status.

In Miami, Organización Hondureña Integrada Francisco Morazán (The Integrated Honduran Organization Francisco Morazán), has been helping immigrants file paper work to renew their status.

“Many Hondurans feel anxious because they don’t know what will happen after their extension ends on July 5th,” said the organization’s director, Francisco Portillo, to NBC News.

Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of Central American Resource Center, also known as CARECEN in Washington D.C, said there are indications that TPS renewals are low for Hondurans, which prompted the organization to put out media advisories reminding Hondurans and Nicaraguans that they should renew their status.

Lilia Alvarez, director of legal services at CARECEN said the organization is seeing people that are “very afflicted by this anxiety of what will happen next, will they be able to pay their mortgage when TPS goes away.”

The anxiety level differs depending on whether the person is Nicaraguan or Honduran. For Nicaraguans, there is no question that their protected status ends in January 2019. For Hondurans, the delay in deciding whether to continue the protection means they won’t find out until July whether protection will be extended.

Others are trying to find out if they have a path to legal residency. Some may have U.S. citizen spouses or children and may have re-entered the country after obtaining advance parole, knowing they could possibly become legal residents and have been saving to make the necessary applications.

For them, making the transition to legal resident has become more urgent and they are “coming in to take care of it,” Alvarez said.

Nicaraguans have until January 5, 2019 to leave the U.S. or change their residency status. The administration determined the unfavorable conditions in Nicaragua left by Hurricane Mitch are no longer there.

Both groups were protected from deportation after Hurricane Mitch devastated parts of Central America in 1998. Since then, their status has been routinely renewed.

Immigration hard-liners have urged Trump to end the TPS program arguing it was never intended to give long-term residency to immigrants who may have entered the country illegally.

The government of Honduras has requested TPS extension while Nicaragua’s leftist government has not formally requested one.

Congress created TPS in 1990 to shield immigrants from deportation if their countries were deemed too unstable or unsafe to receive them because of natural disasters or armed conflicts. The Trump administration has made it clear in the past few months they are determined to end protections.

In November, DHS ended TPS for 60,000 Haitians who arrived after the 2010 earthquake, giving them an 18-month period to leave. On Monday, they will announce whether it will be extended for about 200,000 Salvadorans that have been living in the U.S. since at least 2001.

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