The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday canceled immigration benefits for nearly 5,300 Nicaraguan nationals who are in the United States, but extended benefits for 86,000 Hondurans.
The Central American migrants were allowed to live and work in the U.S. under a program called Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke gave Nicaraguan TPS recipients 12 months after the country designation’s end date to arrange their affairs and either leave the country or obtain legal status through a different visa category.
That means Nicaraguans under TPS will be allowed to remain and work in the country until Jan. 5, 2019.
Senior administration officials said Duke did not make a determination on Honduras’s TPS designation. By statute, that means the designation is automatically extended by six months, and will now expire on July 5, 2018.
TPS does not provide a path to permanent residency and citizenship, but it does allow beneficiaries to seek other visas.
After Jan. 5, 2019, Nicaraguan TPS beneficiaries who stay in the United States and do not get a different visa will revert to their previous immigration status. For the large majority, if not all, of the affected beneficiaries, that would mean becoming undocumented.
DHS had until Monday to decide whether to renew TPS for Honduras and Nicaragua, ahead of deadlines on the continuation of TPS for 50,000 Haitians on Nov. 23 and 195,000 Salvadorans on Jan. 8.
In May, then-DHS Secretary John Kelly, who is now the White House chief of staff, renewed Haitian TPS for six months. But he warned beneficiaries that they should use that period of time to “attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States.”
Trump administration officials have long maintained that the temporary nature of TPS was ignored by previous administrations. They say it’s up to Congress to decide whether to extend permanent relief to the program’s beneficiaries.
By Rafael Bernal for THE HILL
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