Letter: Temporary Protected Status for Immigrants from Central America

President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
301 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 2052

The Honorable Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520 

RE: Temporary Protected Status for Immigrants from Central America


President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas, Secretary Blinken,

The undersigned organizations urge your administration to designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. This letter follows previous petitions from organizations and members of Congress since the start of your administration. Redesignating TPS for Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and designating TPS for Guatemala must be considered as an essential part of the U.S. strategy to address the root causes of migration from Central America. TPS designations are also critical in the context of increasing climate-related disasters affecting the region. Not extending protections for TPS beneficiaries from Central America would have devastating impacts for TPS beneficiaries, their families, and communities in the United States, and potentially destabilize Central America further. 

Designating Guatemala and redesignating TPS for Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua fits squarely within the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State. TPS was created as a statute in 1990 to protect immigrants who are unable to return to their home countries because of situations of armed conflict, extraordinary circumstances which prevent governments from receiving their citizens safely, and natural disasters like back-to-back Hurricanes Eta and Iota that these countries experienced in November 2020 following a multi-year period of drought. The combination of the devastating impacts of the hurricanes on housing, public infrastructure, agriculture, with ongoing political and human rights crises, violence, economic downfall exacerbated by the pandemic, and a lack of adequate access to food, water, and health care, prevents nationals from returning safely and warrants a granting of new TPS designations. The government of Guatemala has requested TPS for its citizens due to the impacts of the 2020 hurricanes on more than one occasion, and the new government of Honduras has also requested TPS for its citizens, another necessary condition for the granting of TPS for natural disasters according to U.S. law.

The lingering impact of the November 2020 hurricanes combined with the effects of climate change and the longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened food insecurity and instability in Central America. Hurricanes Eta and Iota left an estimated 9.3 million people, including 3.5 million people affected, and forced to leave their communities. As of July 2022, at least 8.4 million people require food assistance in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Inequalities have deepened in the region as people have been unable to recover from unemployment and impacts to their livelihoods due to the pandemic. Hurricane Bonnie that passed through Central America in July 2022, causing deaths in El Salvador and Nicaragua, is the latest example of natural disasters impacting the region. As a new hurricane season begins, communities that have already been affected with loss of homes, livelihoods and the destruction of critical infrastructure from previous storms will again face the risk of flooding or devastation. TPS designation can help stabilize the region, allowing families to access vital resources through remittances sent by loved ones, while governments and international humanitarian organizations work to aid those harmed by natural disasters and already suffering the effects of the pandemic, as well as ongoing violence, poverty, and corruption. The growing crackdown against independent journalists and civil society organizations across Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador also exacerbates risks for individuals returning home.

The urgency of granting a new designation for current TPS beneficiaries from Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador in the United States cannot be overstated. Under the Ramos v. Nielsen and Bhattarai v. Nielsen lawsuits, the protection for TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Nicaragua has been extended to December 31, 2022. This is less than four months away. No one benefits by forcing TPS beneficiaries to continue living with this constant uncertainty and fear. Although extending their protections with new designations is not a permanent solution, it will allow TPS beneficiaries to continue to live and work in the United States in the short term and to send remittances to support their families in Central America suffering from the impacts of natural disasters, severe drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and to strengthen those countries’ economies—creating positive impacts for communities in the United States and boosting these countries’ economies in Central America. Citizens abroad sent a total of $24.5 billion in remittances to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in 2020 alone. TPS would also benefit the U.S. economy as the majority of Central American TPS beneficiaries have resided in the United States for at least two decades and represent a strong workforce—many serving as essential workers during the pandemic.

We urge your administration to redesignate TPS for Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and designate TPS for Guatemala as soon as possible. While Congress must ultimately act to grant them permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship, the executive branch can act to extend their protections in the short term. TPS designations can be a core part of the humane and rights-based immigration and foreign policy that you have promised. It can help countries in Central America recover from natural disasters and strengthen immigrant communities in the United States.



Banner Photo Caption: Migrants from Guatemala who are seeking asylum rest in a shelter on May 15, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images.