Hondurans And Nicaraguans In The U.S. Anxious About Future Of Protected Status

Nov 5, 2017
Originally published on November 9, 2017 10:46 am
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Tomorrow, the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to decide whether to extend or cancel temporary protected status for some 60,000 Hondurans and Nicaraguans. They got their status after a devastating hurricane in the 1990s. Hondurans are the second-largest group with TPS. Ending it could tear families apart. NPR's Leila Fadel sent this report.

FRANCIS GARCIA: Actually Frances (ph), do you guys - everything from the car...

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: It's Friday at Francis Garcia's house, her day off from her job as a housekeeper at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. She just finished grocery shopping, and her kids are helping her put things away in their three-bedroom apartment.


FADEL: Francis's three kids are American, but she is not. She came from Honduras in 1996, undocumented and searching for work, a better life. Two years later, Hurricane Mitch devastated parts of Central America, and she got temporary protected status or TPS.

GARCIA: When I came, I was so young, so the life that I know is here. It's the only one.

FADEL: She put down roots, working, paying taxes and sending money to her extended family in Honduras. But now, the Trump administration has indicated that soon her protected status will end.

If TPS ends on Monday, what does that mean for you, for your family?

GARCIA: It's a nightmare. I don't want to think about that. It's is very hard. I always tell them, you know, that it’s not going to happen, and everything is going to be fine. But it's really scary.

FADEL: Scary because she'll have to leave her kids or live in fear of being deported.

GARCIA: It's really hard to be separated. I wouldn't like to take my kids back to my country. It's really dangerous. Honduras is bad. It's not the same. When I came here, it was economic reasons.

FADEL: She's afraid if she takes her American children there, they will be kidnapped for ransom or killed.

GARCIA: I love my country. I have no problem to go back, but it's not the place for my kids. They are very young. I don't want to put my kids in that situation over there where they're going to put a price on my kids.

FADEL: An estimated 325,000 people have TPS. About 85 percent are productive parts of the workforce, and between them, they have tens of thousands of American children. Royce Bernstein Murray is the policy director at the American Immigration Council.

ROYCE BERNSTEIN MURRAY: I mean, Hondurans and Nicaraguans have had their fingerprints taken 13 times, and they're paying taxes. They're paying into benefit systems, and they can't take out those benefits through Social Security and Medicare. So overall, they're a net positive, and I just don't see any benefit to ending TPS for them.

FADEL: Without work, they can't pay mortgages, which means foreclosures. They won't be able to send needed money home. And Murray says that will cause more instability in the northern triangle of Central America and possibly more migration. But immigration hardliners like Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, disagrees.

MARK KRIKORIAN: Temporary protected status is supposed to be temporary. And yet what has happened over successive administrations is that it keeps getting renewed over and over and over again.

FADEL: Back in Las Vegas, Francis Garcia, along with other members of the Culinary Union, the largest labor union in Nevada, are advocating for TPS.

GARCIA: Every time I talk about it, it hurts me to hear somebody have to do it. Somebody has to say, we’re here, and we’re not trying to leave. We want to stay.

FADEL: Francis turned 41 this weekend. She was only 19 when she came to the United States. She's now spent more of her life here than in Honduras.

Leila Fadel, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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