Young Immigrant Fears Losing Protected Status He’s Had For 18 Years

Luis Gonzales was illegally brought from Honduras to the U.S. when he was 6 years old. But he’s been protected from deportation and authorized to work in the U.S. for almost 20 years thanks to an immigration program called Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

“I’ve lived here for 22 years. How can you tell me that I have to go back?” asked the 28-year-old. “And how can you tell Haitians that have worked really hard to go back? And what gives you the right to say, ‘Well now you’re good to go?’ I just made my whole life here. My Spanish is broken as f—. People would be like, ‘What are you doing here, bro?”

Gonzales continued: “The U.S. government is like, ‘Well, these people now have skills that they’ll be able to bring back.’ Yeah, I have skills, but I don’t know if those skills would translate to my survival in Honduras.”

Gonzales is among the more than 320,000 immigrants from 10 countries who have received time-limited permissions to work and live in the U.S. because of natural disasters or other events that make it dangerous for them to return home. But the Department of Homeland Security revisits the TPS designation for each country every six or 18 months, and it has recently ended the designation for Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, concluding that the the conditions in these countries have improved over the years and that its citizens can now safely return home. The administration is giving more than a year to nearly 60,000 Haitians and thousands of Nicaraguans and Sudanese to leave or attempt to change their immigration statuses.

Almost 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS, the biggest recipient group, will learn about their situations in early January. As for the fate of nearly 60,000 Honduran recipients, including Gonzales, federal officials have said they need six months to come up with a decision.

By Ben Schamisso and Jamal Andress for ABC 2
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