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U.S. poised to end Hondurans’ special immigration status

Julio Calderon, 28, upper right, an undocumented immigrant

Julio Calderon, 28, upper right, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, speaks in favor of renewing Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Central America and Haiti living in the United States during a news conference on Nov. 6, 2017, in Miami. Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

Tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants across the country will lose a special protected status that allows them to stay and work legally in the United States, the Trump administration announced Friday.

Hondurans with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will get a chance to extend their participation one more time until Jan. 5, 2020.

They initially were granted the temporary status, which lets immigrants from nations in turmoil stay and work legally in the United States, after Hurricane Mitch devastated their country in 1998.

More than 86,000 Hondurans had registered under TPS, with about 57,000 of those renewing their related work permits last year, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In New York state, 8,916 Hondurans had been granted TPS as of October, though not all had renewed. The agency does not give numbers by county.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen’s office, in a statement Friday, said the final extension will “allow for an orderly transition” as Honduras has made “substantial progress” in hurricane recovery since 1999.

“Based on careful consideration of available information . . . the Secretary determined that the disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch that served as the basis for its TPS designation has decreased to a degree that it should no longer be regarded as substantial,” the statement said.

The termination of protected status for Hondurans could affect thousands on Long Island, immigrant advocates said. It followed similar determinations for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Nepal with Temporary Protected Status.

“This is going to be devastating,” said Patrick Young, program director of the Central American Refugee Center, an immigrant advocacy group in Hempstead and Brentwood.

He said the federal agencies under President Donald Trump are leaving immigrants vulnerable to deportation without carefully considering the conditions in their home countries. In Honduras’ case, immigrants are going back to “one of the most dangerous countries in the world,” he said.

“We have not seen any individualized addressing of the country conditions,” Young said. “We are simply seeing that as they come up for renewal these programs are canceled, so this is not a judicious exercise of presidential powers but a de facto attempt to end TPS for all countries.”

Critics of TPS have maintained that the designation has been extended beyond the temporary nature of the status for different countries and that it should have ended long ago for Honduras.

“Twenty years is enough time for any country to return to some semblance of normalcy after a natural disaster,” said a statement from Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group in Washington, D.C., that supports more restrictive immigration policies.

“Normal does not mean ideal,”’ Stein said. “Honduras, like many other nations that have received TPS designation, was gripped by poverty and turmoil before it was struck by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.”

Maria Rubio, a Honduran immigrant in Brooklyn with the advocacy group Make the Road New York, said the community will continue to push back.

“Trump and his appointees keep refusing to see the contributions we make to this country and recognize the conditions on the ground in our home countries,” Rubio said. “But we will not give up.”

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