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
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.”
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.