January 11, 2022
US Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.), Together with 31 of their Democratic colleagues in the Senate, formally petitioned today for the Biden government to rename the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua granted in addition to a new TPS designation for Guatemala. In a letter to Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas and Foreign Minister Antony Blinken, the Senators expressed deep concern about deteriorating humanitarian conditions across Central America, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and several devastating natural disasters, all of which have contributed to an increase in emigration from the region.
“The crisis in Central America is urgent. … Naming and renaming TPS would provide vital protection for eligible beneficiaries, enabling them to meet the basic needs of their loved ones at home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration. ” wrote the senators. “In our opinion, the severe damage caused by successive hurricanes a little over a year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, justify government action.”
Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that exempts foreigners from certain countries from deportation and access to work permits who cannot safely return to their home country due to natural disasters. , armed conflict, or other exceptional circumstances.
“Over a million Central Americans have been displaced by violence and insecurity. Gender-based violence remains a major driver of displacement, with rates rising dramatically over the course of 2020. the dismantling of independent judicial authorities and efforts to intimidate and silence civil society and independent media. ” the senators added. “The Biden administration must act at this challenging moment and give certainty to the authorized people from Central America. These temporary appointments would give the US government more time to work with governments and civil society in the region to ensure that the return of large numbers to Central America does not lead to further instability and volatility. ”
In addition to Senators Van Hollen and Cardin when the letter was signed, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Bob Menendez (DN.J.), the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) and Senators Ed Markey (D -Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Luján (DN.M. ), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (DN.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.), Michael Bennet ( D-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) , Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jack Reed (DR.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D -Wis.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) And Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
You can find a copy of the letter HERE and below.
Dear Mr. Secretary Mayorkas and Mr. Secretary Blinken,
We are writing to express concern about the ongoing humanitarian needs in Central America and to request a renaming of Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua and a new TPS appointment for Guatemala. In our opinion, the severe damage caused by successive hurricanes just over a year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, justify government action. The Guatemalan government has applied for TPS appointment and the US embassies have issued disaster statements for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in recognition of the urgent need. Naming and renaming TPS would provide vital protection for eligible beneficiaries, allowing them to meet the basic needs of their loved ones at home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration. Ultimately, such designations would be consistent with the government’s commitments to combat climate migration.
The crisis in Central America is urgent. Last year the region experienced extreme weather events, including two hurricanes followed by a month-long drought. According to the World Food Program (WFP), farmers in the region are facing the worst drought in 35 years. According to the WFP, hunger in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has almost quadrupled in the past two years from 2.2 million people in 2018 to just under 8 million people in 2021. Eight out of ten households are using crisis management measures, selling their land, tools and livestock, and missing meals or eating less nutritious meals. It will take years to repair the damage caused by Hurricanes Eta and Iota to roads, schools, bridges, wells, and other physical infrastructure that continues to affect citizens’ livelihoods. The pressure has increased emigration from the region. In January, 15 percent of WFP respondents said they had specific migration plans – twice as many as two years ago. According to media reports, the citizens of the region have to choose between migration or hunger. Despite U.S. embassies’ disaster statements that activated U.S. humanitarian aid, 8.3 million people needed humanitarian aid in July 2021, including 5.5 million in dire need of food in September 2021, according to the Famine Early Warning System Network.
The International Monetary Fund says the remittances initially helped the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but tropical storms Eta and Iota halted progress, damaged crops and halted production. In 2020, the GDP of Honduras fell by nine percent, that of El Salvador by nearly eight percent, that of Nicaragua by two percent and that of Guatemala by 1.8 percent. The IMF provided emergency funding to the region to cope with these shocks. However, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and delayed vaccination campaigns, particularly in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, will prolong the region’s economic recovery.
Taken together, the effects of the natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have deeply exacerbated food insecurity and violence and led to rising social tensions. Forced evictions continue to plague the region. Over a million Central Americans have been displaced by violence and insecurity. Gender-based violence remains a major driver of displacement, with rates rising dramatically over the course of 2020. On November 3rd, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission named El Salvador the most dangerous Latin American country for women. In addition, countries in the region have suffered a severe democratic relapse and political persecution is mounting, including through the consolidation of a dictatorship in Nicaragua, the dismantling of independent judicial authorities, and efforts to intimidate and silence civil society and independent media.
TPS is a humanitarian tool used by both Democratic and Republican governments to help people who cannot return to countries with exceptional conditions. At this difficult moment, the Biden government must act and reassure legitimate people from Central America. These temporary appointments would give the US government more time to work with governments and civil society in the region to ensure that the return of large numbers to Central America does not lead to further instability and volatility. They would also provide immediate and tangible humanitarian benefits to new status holders and help mitigate the factors that cause dangerous brain drain by ensuring lifesaving remittances.
We believe El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua meet the standards for TPS. We look forward to working closely with the von Biden administration in assisting them in this important step of maintaining humanitarian protection, safeguarding the national security interests of the United States, and defending American families. Thank you for considering this important matter.