In a statement issued Monday night, the Department of Homeland Security said that Nicaraguans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have until January 5, 2019 in order to return home or seek a permanent immigration status.
At the same time, the USA administration extended the TPS for six months, until July 2018, for the same reason for some 86,160 Hondurans.
The decision will affect thousands of Nicaraguan living in the United States, who will have to seek "an alternative lawful immigration status" or leave the US. TPS for Haitians expires January 22, 2018, and for Salvadorans, March 9, 2018. Already, 50,000 Haitian TPS recipients, who expect administrative decisions by Thanksgiving, are preparing for the worst.
The presidents of both Honduras and El Salvador have urged the Trump administration to extend the program, citing the contributions that TPS holders make to their economies by sending money home and the destabilizing effects of thousands of people returning.
For Rosa Cecilia Martínez, originally from El Congo, El Salvador, the elimination of the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) program would be devastating.
More than 5,000 Nicaraguans and about 85,000 Hondurans are beneficiaries of that program.
TPS provides temporary legal status in the United States to citizens of other countries where natural disasters or civil wars have made it too unsafe for them to return. That means many people would become undocumented if they can not quickly change their statuses and remain in the country.
Most of the TPS migrants arrived in the United States without legal papers but were allowed to stay and work because of instability in their home countries.
In September, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the president of El Salvador spoke to the United Nations General Assembly and asked that the USA extend TPS to the 195,000 Salvadorans already living in the country. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the conditions in Central America and Haiti no longer justify the need for protections under TPS.
Congress is the only body with the authority to create a path to permanent legal status for TPS holders. They also made clear that the DHS would not specifically target TPS holders who become undocumented once their status expires, but that they would still "prioritize criminal aliens".
Duke's announcement coincides with the start of the confirmation process for her permanent replacement, Kirstjen Nielsen.
"These are people who have had to go to the Department of Homeland security every 18 months, and have shown their papers, their information, their records, have paid to be renewed". "We, the USA government, have created a situation where people have lived in this country a long time". As a mother of a 17-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, she said she would be forced to leave and take her two children with her.