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If immigrants leave Suffolk, county to lose $373M, report says

Workers harvest Chardonnay on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017

Workers harvest Chardonnay on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue. Credit: Randee Daddona

Suffolk County stands to lose up to $373 million in estimated annual spending by residents if a program known as “Temporary Protected Status” is not renewed for thousands of immigrants who make their home in its communities, says an analysis prepared by the county.

The looming deadlines faced by those immigrants — primarily from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti — could be the start of an economic hit that would reduce yearly economic output, according to the report to be issued Monday.

Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, exempts from deportation and grants work permits to immigrants from nations besieged by natural disaster, war or famine.

President Donald Trump’s administration signaled earlier this year, as it reviewed the status for Haitians, that it would enforce the “temporary” nature of the program — potentially ordering the departure of thousands who have lived, worked and paid taxes here for more than a decade.

The Suffolk analysis, prepared by its Department of Economic Development and Planning, states that “most of these beneficiaries are deeply integrated into the economic, social, and cultural life of Suffolk County.”

Steve Bellone, Suffolk county executive, is joining immigrants, business groups and advocates, in calling for their stay.

“Washington needs to put the politics aside and extend these protections not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is the smart thing to do for our local economy,” Bellone said in a statement.

Though many TPS recipients also live in Nassau County, this report did not include them. Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey said Nassau “will continue to examine this issue along with the Department of Social Services and evaluate what, if any, impact it will have” on residents.

Typically, TPS recipients were given extensions of a year or more when their protection expired, meaning they had to reapply and be vetted each time by immigration authorities. But what happened earlier this year raised red flags for about 435,000 immigrants holding TPS across the country.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced in May it was extending the designation only for six months, until January 2018, for Haitians granted TPS after a 2010 earthquake. The administration made it clear those immigrants should be prepared to leave when it expires.

Immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua will see their status under review in January and those from El Salvador and Syria in March. Immigrants from Nepal, Somalia and Yemen will be reviewed later next year. Sudan will be off the program in November 2018 and South Sudan will be reviewed in 2019.

In a statement Friday, the Department of Homeland Security said its secretary “will review country conditions in each country individually to determine whether it continues to meet the statutory conditions for TPS.”

Suffolk estimates it has 11,534 immigrants who are TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti and Nicaragua. They are estimated to have median household incomes of $77,600 per year and spend an average $53,567 per household annually.

If all were to leave, goes the report’s hypothetical calculation, Suffolk would lose $638 million in total economic output.

Minda Hernández, 48, a housekeeper, member of the 32BJ SEIU union, said getting her work permit after a 2001 earthquake in her native El Salvador changed her life. She went from being an undocumented and underpaid factory worker to getting steady employment, obtaining a driver’s license and buying a house in Huntington Station with her husband, also a TPS holder. They have a teenage son who is a U.S. citizen.

“It was a pretty big change,” Hernández said in Spanish, “and I would like for them to give us a way to renew TPS or give us a way to become” legal permanent residents. “It’s important to us.”

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