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Revival of key immigration status is big for some local families

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
Sydney Phoenix
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Some who came to the United States fleeing instability got good news earlier this month when the Department of Homeland Security announced it would reinstate Temporary Protected Status for people from four countries.

The program gives those who fled El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal or Nicaragua during specific time periods temporary protection against deportation, and documentation for work. There are other TPS designations available for migrants from other countries experiencing natural disasters, war, or political instability, including Ukraine and Haiti.

DHS monitors conditions in those countries to see if migrants could safely be sent back. The conditions in the countries receiving TPS are sufficiently dangerous that those migrating here during the time periods specified are allowed to stay on a temporary basis.

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Some of the families who will benefit from the decision are right here in Greater Cincinnati. Santa Maria Community Services Director of Supportive Services Hillary Williams says it's a big deal for some Nicaraguan families the nonprofit serves. 

"These families have just gotten a huge weight lifted off their shoulders," she says. "They can continue living in the United States in a safer manner where they'll get more help."

Williams says political instability in Nicaragua caused many families to flee the country. The TPS extension applies to families who previously had the temporary protection, though they will need to reapply. Nicaraguans must have lived in that country prior to 1998 to qualify. The status is good for 18 months and can be renewed.

The Trump administration eliminated the designation for the four countries in 2017 and 2018.

"The families we've seen have fled due to the political atmosphere, the danger and threats that are posed just from them trying to live their lives," she says. "For most of the families in Nicaragua, that is their reality."

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While El Salvador and Honduras are also covered by temporary protected status designations, neighboring Guatemala is not. That's something DHS should consider, given the country's instability and danger, Williams says. She says roughly 85% of the immigrants Santa Maria serves hail from the Central American country.

"While this news is wonderful for the people it has affected, it's a shame this temporary status hasn't been extended to people from Guatemala," she says.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.