On May 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that temporary protected status (TPS) will end for approximately 57,000 Hondurans, effective January 5, 2020. DHS originally granted TPS to Honduran citizens in 1999, after Hurricane Mitch devastated the country.
TPS is a humanitarian program established by Congress to provide immigration status to nationals of designated countries afflicted by ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. The secretary of DHS may designate a country for TPS if conditions in the country temporarily prevent its nationals from safely returning or the country cannot adequately handle the return of its nationals. TPS does not lead to lawful permanent resident status, but it does provide a stay of deportation. Nationals of a country designated for TPS may obtain temporary work authorization and travel authorization for specific periods as authorized by DHS.
TPS can be extended by the secretary of homeland security if, after consultation with various U.S. government agencies, it is determined that conditions in the designated country still meet the requirements for the designation. The Trump administration has determined that the secretary must consider only the original reason for the designation in deciding whether or not to issue an extension. This new framework has been used to explain the recent cancellations of the TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Nepal, and now Honduras. In a statement issued by DHS, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen said that “the disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch that served as the basis for its TPS designation has decreased to a degree that it should no longer be regarded as substantial. Thus, as required under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”
The effective termination date of Honduras’s TPS designation has been delayed until January 5, 2020, to give Honduran TPS beneficiaries the opportunity to make arrangements for their departure from the United States or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible. The statement from DHS explains that the 18-month delay “will also provide time for Honduras to prepare for the return and reintegration of its citizens,” some of whom have been living and working in the United States for nearly 20 years.