Cen­tral Amer­i­cans brace for rule changes

Tem­po­rary Pro­tected Sta­tus plan has en­sured refuge for many from restive ar­eas, but fears abound it will be axed

Gulf News - - Americas -

Irma Acosta has spent the past two decades en­rolled in an im­mi­gra­tion pro­gramme that has helped her get a work per­mit, put three chil­dren through school in her na­tive Hon­duras and ob­tain health in­sur­ance to cover her can­cer treat­ment.

Now, the 51-year-old ho­tel house­keeper from Los An­ge­les fears it could all come to an abrupt halt.

Acosta is one of about 400,000 im­mi­grants who have been al­lowed to re­main here un­der a lit­tle-known hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­gramme that could be on shaky ground in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion as it comes up for re­newal in the com­ing months for many of its re­cip­i­ents.

The ben­e­fi­cia­ries — many who came to the coun­try il­le­gally from Hon­duras and El Sal­vador — worry the ad­min­is­tra­tion will phase out their ac­cess to the pro­gramme and de­port them to coun­tries where they haven’t lived in years.

“I don’t know what I’d do in my coun­try,” said Acosta, who has lived nearly half her life in the US. “I have noth­ing there.”

Tem­po­rary mea­sures

The pro­gramme, known as Tem­po­rary Pro­tected Sta­tus, is geared to­ward coun­tries rav­aged


The US tapped Hon­duras in 1999 af­ter Hur­ri­cane Mitch. About 86,000 Hon­durans par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gramme, which is due to ex­pire on Jan­uary 5. Nicaragua was des­ig­nated at the same time but has fewer par­tic­i­pants. Im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates ex­pect an an­nounce­ment shortly from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on th­ese two coun­tries.

The coun­try was des­ig­nated af­ter a 2010 earth­quake and about 59,000 Haitians were cov­ered by the pro­gramme at the end of 2016. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­newed the pro­gramme for Haitians ear­lier this year for six months. It ex­pires on Jan­uary 22.


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 pro­gramme to pro­tect from de­por­ta­tion im­mi­grants brought to the US as chil­dren — an ini­tia­tive Trump re­cently ended.

Ten coun­tries are cur­rently des­ig­nated for the pro­gramme, with more than 70 per cent either from El Sal­vador or Hon­duras, ac­cord­ing to US Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices.

The pro­gramme was cre­ated by law but the White House de­cides which coun­tries should par­tic­i­pate and for how long.

When the fed­eral gov­ern­ment taps a coun­try for the pro­gramme, its ci­ti­zens al­ready in the US are al­lowed to re­main and work here, re­gard­less of how they came. The pro­gramme is up for re­newal in the com­ing months, with de­ci­sions on Hon­duras and Nicaragua ex­pected by early this month.


Irma Acosta.

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