This week, the Latin America Working Group, along with over 270 civil rights, labor rights, faith-based, immigrant, human rights, humanitarian, and legal service organizations, signed a letter to President Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Secretary of State John Kerry requesting that the administration designate the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This groundswell of support echoes similar calls from members of the U.S. Congress, including letters from 146 Representatives and 22 Senators, to recognize the horrific violence that Central American children, women, and men are fleeing, to stop harmful deportations, and to grant TPS as part of a much-needed humanitarian relief package.
TPS was written into U.S. immigration law in 1990 to provide individuals from a foreign country in which “there exist extraordinary and temporary conditions… that prevent aliens who are nationals of the state from returning to the state in safety” the permission to stay and work in the United States without getting deported back to danger. While El Salvador and Honduras have been given this designation in the past due to environmental disasters, it does not apply to the current wave of children, women, and men fleeing spiraling violence in those countries. As the letter asserts, “These three countries warrant TPS designation in light of the dramatically escalating violence that has precipitated a humanitarian crisis of refugees fleeing the Northern Triangle countries.”
Recent years have seen an alarming increase in violence, accompanied by natural disasters, human rights violations, and state corruption scandals, in the Northern Triangle. In 2014, President Obama recognized the “urgent humanitarian situation” at the U.S. southern border as tens of thousands of unaccompanied children as well as families arrived seeking protection and safety. Despite increased immigration and border enforcement efforts in the United States, as well as in Mexico and Central America, and public information campaigns to dissuade migration, the spike in the numbers of children, women, and men arriving at the U.S. southern border at the end of 2015 shows that the conditions on the ground in the Northern Triangle have not improved. In fact, as the letter states, “In 2015, the death toll in the Northern Triangle of Central America was 17,500, higher than in all but three zones of ongoing armed conflict: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.”
By granting a TPS designation, the Obama Administration can take a significant step forward in providing protection for children and families fleeing for their lives from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. LAWG welcomes the steps the administration has just announced to expand its refugee admissions for this region, as well as to continue to implement its Central American Minor (CAM) In-Country Refugee Processing Program. This announcement demonstrates recognition of the protection warranted by families and children from this region. However, LAWG also continues to demand an end to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raids that began early this year and that have already begun to send these children and families back to the very danger they were fleeing. In light of these contradictory policies, TPS would be a vital addition to the United States’ existing but still far too limited asylum system and humanitarian relief for the region.
LAWG stands firmly behind the inclusion of TPS in a comprehensive package of protection from harm for those fleeing Central America and continues to demand end to unjust and inhumane immigration and border enforcement policies that continue to place Central American families in danger.
For the complete text of the letter to President Obama, click here.