RELEASE: TPS Can Bring Stability and Recovery for Central American Countries Hit by Recent Hurricanes, New Brief Finds

Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief released today by the Center for American Progress concludes that the interplay between the extensive damage caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic provides strong grounds to support designating Guatemala and redesignating Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Even before the hurricanes made landfall, the public health infrastructures and economies of these Central American countries were experiencing great strain. Roughly 500,000 jobs were lost or suspended during Honduras’ three-month quarantine period earlier this year, and El Salvador and Guatemala were projected to see 200,000 and 104,000 formal job losses, respectively, as a result of the pandemic. Acute food insecurity as a result of droughts and earlier natural disasters left Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador at the greatest risk of starvation and death in all of Latin America.

Eta and Iota, two powerful Category 4 storms that followed nearly the same path just weeks apart, made a dire situation much worse. Offering TPS to eligible nationals of designated countries who are already residing in the United States would allow them to apply for temporary permission to remain in the country and work lawfully rather than being forced to return to unsafe conditions in countries that are currently incapable of adequately receiving them. TPS was created by statute in 1990 for precisely this circumstance and is a key tool to both shelter and protect foreign nationals and provide countries that have suffered cataclysmic damage the time and space they need to adequately rebuild.

The brief finds that a decision to offer TPS to these nations could be announced as part of a comprehensive plan by the Biden administration to promote human security and stability in the region, which would include additional humanitarian support and diplomatic engagement. The redesignations of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in particular, could also accompany a decision to vacate the six flawed TPS reviews performed by the Trump administration that resulted in termination decisions that currently remain halted during the pendency of ongoing legal challenges.

“Given the central role that President-elect Joe Biden played during the Obama administration to build an alliance for prosperity in Central America, he is well-positioned to understand the devastating impact these two unprecedented hurricanes have had in the region,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration Policy at CAP and co-author of the brief. “The case for TPS—firmly grounded in statute for 30 years—could not be more clear.”

“These two hurricanes on top of COVID-19 have pushed some Central American countries to the brink,” said Silva Mathema, associate director for policy on the Immigration Policy team at CAP and co-author of the brief. “Designating Guatemala, and redesignating Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, for TPS will protect the nationals of these countries who are residing in the United States from being returned to places that are unable to safely and adequately handle their return, as well as help these countries on the long path to recovery and rebuilding.”

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