For nearly 20 years the Nicaraguan man worked long hours cleaning homes
and buildings in South Florida. He started his own cleaning business 11
years ago and now employs a half dozen workers.
He thought he could soon begin to enjoy the fruits of his labor, but now
all of that is at risk.
Like many Americans approaching retirement age, the 62-year-old planned
to retire next year and start collecting his benefits. Then the Trump
announced a week agothat it’s ending an immigration protection for him and 2,500 other
“I worked so many years contributing to Social Security, the retirement
plan. Now I wanted to relax,” said the man, who spoke to el Nuevo
Herald on condition of anonymity. “Now it seems I am going to lose
everything that I earned all these years.”
For many years, the U.S. government allowed hundreds of thousands of undocumented
immigrants from Central America and Haiti to remain with a work permit
and other protections under its Temporary Protected Status program. TPS
is for citizens of countries affected by natural disasters — like
the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998 — or armed
conflicts like El Salvador’s in the 1980s.
But the Trump administration announced last week that TPS for Nicaraguans
would end in January 2019. The announcement spread fears to all of the
more than 200,000 other immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti
now protected under the designation.
The United States long ago became home for TPS beneficiaries. They work
here, and many have bought homes here and given birth to children who
are U.S. citizens. And they send billions of dollars to relatives back
home each year.
Analysts say that TPS beneficiaries are now caught in the middle of a battle
between foreign policy experts who understand the dire conditions in the
countries affected, and a Trump administration broadly opposed to immigration.
“This cancellation represents a failure to recognize that TPS holders
have been contributors not only to the well-being of many communities
across the U.S., but it also fails to recognize some of the implications
that some of these decisions are likely to have in the very countries
of origin,” said Oscar Chacón, co-founder and executive director
of Alianza Americas, which works with immigrants from Latin America and
Chacón branded the TPS withdrawal for Nicaraguans as “disappointing”
and “alarming” for the 57,000 Hondurans protected by the designation.
There are also 195,000 Salvadorans and 50,000 Haitians who have TPS.
The Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce a decision
on TPS for Haitians by Nov. 23. It has extended TPS for Hondurans for
six months while it investigates whether conditions in the country merit
a continuation. TPS for Salvadorans is due to expire in March, and the
government must announce at least 60 days prior whether it will extend
or cancel the benefit.
“The most powerful argument for keeping the Nicaraguan protection
is not so much that Nicaragua is in the same situation as Honduras, El
Salvador and Guatemala,” Chacón said, referring to the three
countries that make up Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle,
which was the focus of a high-level
Trump administration meeting in Miami earlier this year. “It has a lot more to do with how much these
communities are really deeply embedded in U.S. society. These are communities
that have raised families here.”
María Elena Hernández came to South Florida from Nicaragua
more than 20 years ago to visit her brothers. She legally extended her
tourist visa, then watched on television as Hurricane Mitch devastated
much of her country.
“That was terrible. I decided to stay, to help my country and my
family from here. This is where I have my brothers, my nephews, my job,
my life,” said Hernández, who has worked for nine years as
a janitor at a local university. “This country is a world leader
in human rights and criticizes countries that don’t respect them.
And now it wants to send us to Nicaragua?”
While the presidents of Honduras and El Salvador have lobbied the Trump
administration to extend TPS for their citizens — and the Haitian
government followed suit recently — Nicaraguan President Daniel
Ortega did not ask for an extension.
Some analysts said Ortega’s lack of action influenced the Trump administration
to end TPS for Nicaraguans. Others believe that Washington picked on Nicaraguans
because of their much lower number under TPS.
“The government of my country did not speak out for us, left us alone.
And that shows that we’re not important to them,” said Hernández,
an official in a local branch of the Service Employees International Union.
The U.S. government views Ortega’s rule as anti-democratic but has
invested billions of dollars in efforts to improve life in Honduras, El
Salvador and Haiti, three of the most vulnerable countries in the hemisphere.
El Salvador and Honduras have some of the highest murder rates in the world.
Chacón said that in Honduras, one woman is murdered every 16 hours.
“These are countries that the U.S. government should, and has been
working to, stabilize,” said Daniel Restrepo, now a senior fellow
at the Center for American Progress. He was an adviser on Latin America
policy in the Obama administration and part of the decision-making process
on TPS for Haitians and several extensions.
“This decision in a lot of ways is one where the U.S. government
has to decide … whether we want to continue working in partnership
with these countries; whether we want to do something that would be further
destabilizing to those countries where you would have displaced workers,
where you would have increased pressure on governance institutions that
are already overmatched,” Restrepo said. “Those are some of
the stakes that are at play here.”
Meanwhile, Nicaraguans with TPS say they are desperately considering the
few options available to them and are praying for a positive solution.
“We did not expect this because they extended this program so many
times that we’re practically native. My daughter came when she was
really small and studied here. She speaks more English than Spanish,”
said a 63-year-old Nicaraguan woman who lives in Little Havana. “We
have nothing in Nicaragua.”
Some U.S. Congress members from South Florida are backing
a bill that would allow TPS beneficiaries to apply for permanent residency.
For some TPS beneficiaries, like the Nicaraguan man who owns a cleaning
company, the only option is to remain in the United State illegally.
“I don’t want to break the law, but everything I have is here.
The government is forcing me to join the ranks of the illegals, to live
in the shadows,” he said.
Others, like the woman who lives in Little Havana, are considering moving
to another country.
But countries like Canada — where
thousands of Haitians arrived this summer because of fears their TPS designation would be withdrawn — have already
warned Nicaraguans and other TPS beneficiaries that they would not be welcome.
Canadian parliament member Randy Boissonnault is scheduled to visit Miami
on Sunday to meet with members of the Central American community.
“We do not want community members to make important life-changing
decisions based on false information that might be circulated via
social media or through erroneous verbal communication,” Boissonnault said.
For others, like labor activist Hernández, her only option is a
risky return to Nicaragua.
“I would leave because I always follow the laws of any country where
I live,” she said. “In this country, where there’s freedom
of expression, I learned to speak out when I see an injustice. I am not
going to be silent in Nicaragua, and could wind up in jail.”
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/immigration/article184264498.html
REVILLA LAW FIRM, P.A.
Miami immigration lawyers
If you are a TPS beneficiary and have questions about how your status in
this country will be impacted by the Trump administration's recent
announcement, contact our Miami immigration law firm today for a free
in-office consultation. We will thoroughly review your case and provide
legal guidance to ensure you are informed about the best course of action
for your immigration case.
Contact us today to schedule your free in-office consultation. Telephone consultations are also available for a nominal fee.
(305) 858-2323 or toll free (877) 854-2323