(ESPAÑOL) 400,000 immigrants protected by a little-known humanitarian immigration program are in peril of deportation as the program comes up for renewal in the coming months.
The program known as Temporary Protected Status is geared toward countries ravaged by natural disasters or war. It is a temporary fix for immigrants without legal status, much like the more widely known Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to protect from deportation immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — an initiative Trump recently ended.
When the federal government taps a country for the program, its citizens already in the United States are allowed to remain and work here, regardless of how they came. They can’t bring family to join them, and immigrants who arrive later are not allowed to sign up.
Ten countries are currently designated for the program, with more than 70 percent either from El Salvador or Honduras, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The U.S. government offered the status to Hondurans and Nicaraguans after their countries were decimated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and to Salvadorans after a deadly 2001 earthquake. The idea was to let immigrants work and send money back to help relatives recover from the damage and not burden the countries with a large number of deportees.
While the status was meant to be temporary, it was repeatedly renewed by the Bush and Obama administrations over concerns the countries could not shoulder the return of so many people. As a result, some immigrants have been allowed to stay in the U.S. for nearly 20 years.
The program is up for renewal again in the coming months, with decisions on Honduras and Nicaragua expected by early November.
Officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have not said what the administration plans to do. The Homeland Security Secretary will review country conditions and make a decision at least 60 days before each country’s status expires.
Immigrant advocates are trying to raise awareness about the program and pressure lawmakers and businesses to lobby the administration to keep it.