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Biden plans to protect a million immigrants from deportation

Sources say the final decision is expected only after Joe Biden takes office as President of the United States on January 20, writes Al Jazeera.

Photo: Shutterstock

Biden's new administration is considering a plan to protect more than a million immigrants from Honduras and Guatemala from deportation after countries were hit by hurricanes in November, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

President-elect Joe Biden's Transition Team is weighing whether to grant them Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The program allows people already in the United States at the time of appointment to legally stay and work if their home countries have been affected by natural disasters, armed conflict, or other events that prevent them from returning safely. The program lasts from 6 to 18 months and can be extended.

TPS applies to both immigrants to the United States with and without valid visas. The program prohibits participation of certain applicants with criminal convictions and those deemed to be a security risk.

The sources stressed that no decisions are expected until Biden takes office on January 20.

"They study TPS in the same way they study a number of things to choose the right course of action," said one of the people, all of whom wished to remain anonymous. "The circumstances on the ground certainly confirm this."

If Biden's Democratic Administration grants TPS to Hondurans and Guatemalans, it would be a significant expansion of the program and the largest use of that power in decades.

The discussion on humanitarian protection represents a sharp departure from the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.

Trump has tried to gradually reduce TPS participation, arguing that countries have recovered from natural disasters that happened several years or decades ago, but the termination was delayed by federal courts, and the protections will remain in effect until at least October 2021.

Biden's campaign website described Trump's attempts to ditch TPS as "politically motivated," and Biden said he would not return participants to unsafe countries.

If the Biden administration ultimately proposes new TPS protections to Hondurans and Guatemalans, it could spark liberal Democratic enthusiasm, but risks being criticized by Republicans who support Trump's tougher approach to immigration, making it difficult for Biden to pass the immigration bill he plans to submit. at a meeting at the beginning of his term.

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Deadly storms

US border guards are also worried about the impact of the dramatic increase in migration amid the coronavirus pandemic. The situation could be exacerbated by talk of new TPS members, said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union of border agents.

According to the Honduran government, the two hurricanes Eta and Iota that struck Central America in November killed more than 100 people in Honduras and forced more than 300 people to evacuate their homes, while more than 000 people remain in shelters.

In Guatemala, hurricanes claimed the lives of dozens of people, destroyed roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and flooded agricultural land while famine was already on the rise.

More than a quarter of a million families in Guatemala have been affected by agricultural destruction, according to the Department of Agriculture. The World Food Program warns that the damage will create a high risk of food insecurity for subsistence farmers and their families for 10 months before the next harvest.

The governments of Honduras and Guatemala have called on the US to issue new TPS appointments to their citizens in the United States.

On Friday, December 18, a group of four Democratic Senators from the states of Virginia and Maryland sent a letter to Alejandro Mallorcas, Biden's candidate for head of the Department of Homeland Security, urging Mallorcas to "immediately" issue new TPS appointments for Honduras and Guatemala, as well as for El Salvador and Nicaragua.

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In Texas, 42-year-old Margarita Rivera, an undocumented Honduran immigrant in the United States who works in a pastry shop, said the flooding was so devastating in her north coast hometown that many of her neighbors lost their homes and were forced to flee by boat.

“I would be glad if TPS was approved,” she said, explaining that if deported it would be extremely difficult for her to survive and make ends meet in Honduras.

According to a 2019 report from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), approximately 411 people of different nationalities have TPS protection.

Some 79 Hondurans already enrolled in the 000 program issued by the administration of Democratic President Bill Clinton after the devastation caused by the hurricane. However, to be eligible, Hondurans had to reside in the United States no later than December 1999, 30.

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