In a statement issued Monday night, the Department of Homeland Security said that Nicaraguans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have until January 5, 2019 in order to return home or seek a permanent immigration status.
The decision to end TPS for Nicaraguans is part of President Donald Trump's broader efforts to tighten restrictions on immigration.Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from across Central America live and work in the United States, but some are protected from the threat of deportation under the TPS program.
TPS was granted to some Nicaraguans in 1999, after Hurricane Mitch devastated the Central American country the year before.
"The practical application would be that would be the date they would have to leave [the country] or by some other means regulate their status", one senior administration official said on the call.
On Monday, DHS determined that Nicaraguan TPS holders can now return home and said that the Nicaraguan government will adequately handle their return. A decision on Haiti and El Salvador is due later this month.
Nicaraguans and Hondurans with TPS will be required to reapply for Employment Authorization Documents in order to legally work in the United States until the end of the respective termination or extension periods.
They called for TPS to be extended at 18-month intervals, as the current law requires, until Congress hammers out a legal fix.
Supporters of TPS slammed the administration's decisions.
A bipartisan coalition of legislators led by Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., proposed a bill last week that would grant TPS recipients from Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador and Nicaragua a chance to apply for permanent residency. "And in fact by not renewing the Temporary Protected Status. they have actually made matters worse", Rodriguez said.
In March, DHS extended TPS for Haiti by six months, although many interpreted this move as a sign that they opposed the program and would be terminating it this fall.
"Among the families with TPS work permits hearing of their status yesterday and in the coming weeks and months are an estimated 273,000 US citizen children. They've been getting working and they have 275,000 citizen children".
"I am shocked that my government did absolutely nothing to protect us from the elimination of TPS", Bernan Vusto, a TPS holder since 1990, said.
"I'm not here to be a delinquent, to be a problem to this country", Florida resident and TPS holder Yolnick Jeune previously told ThinkProgress, explaining that after she arrived in the United States, she learned English so that she would assimilate as quickly as possible.
The Trump administration is now calling on Congress to legislate a "permanent solution" and "provide a certain future" for these individuals.
Other presidential administrations have both ended and renewed TPS without much controversy, as Daily Kos' Gabe Ortiz pointed out.
"When this administration came into office they came wanting to address the issue of the undocumented immigrants".
"Every 16 hours there is a woman killed in Honduras", said Oscar Chacón from the Alianza Américas, stating the country remains one of the most risky places in the world.