The Trump administration has announced it will end Temporary Protected Status - known as TPS - for more than 5,000 Nicaraguan immigrants in the U.S. But Homeland Security officials said they have yet to decide the fate of three much larger groups of TPS holders: Hondurans, Salvadorans and Haitians.
The decision will affect thousands of Nicaraguan living in the U.S., who will have to seek "an alternative lawful immigration status" or leave the US.
According to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, that initiative, created to favor immigrants after the devastating hurricane Mitch in 1998, is no longer necessary.
It has been repeatedly renewed since.
Martínez is a member of a national alliance of organizations that has advocated for the renewal of TPS for all participating countries.
Critics say "temporary" should mean "temporary".
More than 5,000 Nicaraguans and about 85,000 Hondurans are beneficiaries of that program. The provisional immigration program has granted work authorization to recipients, allowing them to stay in the United States legally for decades. Haitians status is set to expire in January 2018, affecting about 50,000 people, majority in Florida, while Sanvadorans' status expires in March 2018, affecting almost 200,000 people.
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"I am deeply pained by and strongly disagree with the decision to phase out the Temporary Protected Status for Nicaraguan nationals living in the United States", said Díaz-Balart.
Latino advocates and legislators from both parties criticized the Trump administration's announcement that it would terminate a program that allows about 3,000 Nicaraguans to stay and work in the US legally as well as delay the decision on whether to extend the program to recipients from Honduras.
"We have had to renew our work permits constantly but it is different under this administration", she said.
Under TPS, immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua were granted temporary protected status in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch killed more than 10,000 people and severely damaged infrastructure in both countries. But it's unclear if that will happen, given the strong desire by some in the Department of Homeland Security and the White House to terminate the program.
Ms Duke said she recognised "the difficulty facing citizens of Nicaragua - and potentially citizens of other countries - who have received TPS designation for close to two decades" and called on the US Congress "to enact a permanent solution for this inherently temporary programme". The Post reports the decision was keenly observed by the roughly 200,000 Salvadorans (here following 2001 earthquakes) and 50,000 Haitians (2010 quake) whose own TPS designation expires in 2018; the latter group will learn their fate by November 23, reports Politico.
According to one study, Haitians, Salvadorans and Hondurans comprise the three largest TPS holders and together have a total of 273,000 children who were born in the U.S. and have American citizenship. Secretary Tillerson has made clear his department's assessment of conditions in Central America and Haiti. There are bipartisan legislative options now before Congress to protect TPS families.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, some Haitian parents are weighing the costs of leaving their children here in the United States if they have to return.