Refugees International (RI) is dismayed by Friday’s decision by the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Honduras on January 5, 2020. The fate of some 57,000 Hondurans currently living in the United States, as well as their estimated 53,000 American citizen children, is now in question.
This decision is ill-conceived for several reasons. Most importantly, the decision is cruel, and it is gratuitous.
The return of this group of long-term and law-abiding residents of the United States who have been here for nearly two decades will have long-term social and economic consequences on these people, their American-born children and the communities they are departing.
The cavalier manner in which Secretary Nielson has thrown these lives into turmoil is chilling.
We are also concerned about basic protections for these returnees, especially given the numbers who will be subject to deportation. The limited and fragile progress made by the Government of Honduras in reducing homicide rates at home has not significantly altered the landscape of criminal and gang-related violence in the country. Indeed, the number of Hondurans fleeing their country in search of international protection continues to increase. In Honduras, for example, UN agencies and civil society have had to partner to relocate people whose lives are at risk, and whose protection concerns cannot be resolved by the local or national authorities. In Mexico, the number of Honduran asylum seekers in 2017 was almost three times greater than the number in 2015.
Put simply, the government of Honduras cannot now guarantee the safe return of tens of thousands of people – many of whom know other home than the United States and will be particularly vulnerable. During a November 2017 mission to the Northern Triangle of Central America region, RI examined the protection process for deportees arriving in Honduras from the United States and Mexico. In our report, RI found that despite important investments in reception services, protection failures remain that ultimately put lives at risk. For example, the Honduran government does not have standardized policies that establish and define the protection process for deportees arriving at all reception centers.
Through local partners, RI had access to the cases of dozens of deportees and the detailed protection challenges they faced upon arrival back in Honduras. These cases reveal renewed persecution of family members, direct threats on the lives of the deportees, including sexual violence, and internal displacement. The choice of Hondurans who have been forced back to their country to go into hiding rather than return to their homes is testament to a credible fears of persecution and violence. And we are deeply concerned that this population of returnees will be particularly vulnerable.
The TPS statute provided the Trump Administration with ample legal authority to extend temporary protected status, but it failed to do so. RI calls on Congress to fashion a legislative solution for Hondurans, as well as other TPS holders who are now in limbo, such as Salvadorans and Haitians.
For more information on the reception process in Honduras and its protection challenges, see Refugees International’s February 2018, Putting Lives at Risk: Protection Failures Affecting Hondurans and Salvadorans Deported from the United States and Mexico.