Nicaraguans in the USA Face “Immigration Limbo” over TPS

Some 4,250 Nicaraguans in the United States fear deportation if the Temporary Protected Status is not renewed in 2022.

By Katherine Estrada Tellez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Nicaraguan migrants under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States fear deportation, after political negotiations between the Biden Administration and immigration lawyers demanding the renewal of such status failed.

This situation keeps around 337,000 migrants, of which 4,250 are Nicaraguans, on edge. “Unfortunately, the Biden Administration did not want to reach any agreement regarding the proposals presented by the lawyers and the negotiations ended.  This is the migratory limbo we are in,” explained Carolina Sediles, a volunteer at the Nicaraguan-American Human Rights Alliance (NAHRA) and one of the TPS beneficiaries.

Carolina Sediles was granted Temporary Protected Status created by the United States Government in 1999 in the year after Hurricane Mitch passed through Nicaragua.

TPS is a temporary immigration benefit, which includes a work permit and legal residency, granted by the Department of Homeland Security to foreigners who fled their countries due to disasters caused by natural phenomena or armed conflicts.

In 2018, the Trump Administration ordered the end of TPS for citizens of Sudan, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti. Families benefitting from the program filed lawsuits in courts to keep TPS from ending. The courts ruled in their favor, but the Trump Administration appealed.

Thus far, the lawsuits have kept TPS alive, but without a new extension, the protected status has an expiration date of December 31 of this year. For migrants from Sudan and Haiti the status was redesigned, but it is unknown whether the same can be achieved for citizens from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Nepal and Honduras.

TPS beneficiaries remain hopeful

TPS beneficiaries are hoping for good will from the Biden Administration and are optimistic that it will renew TPS as happened with other nationalities. “What follows is to wait for the courts of the Ninth Circuit to decide whether they will listen to the lawyers (in favor of TPS renewal) who were trying to take former President Trump’s decision to the courts… if they do not (hear the case) we must find other alternatives or grab our bags and leave,” Sediles warned in an interview with the program Esta Noche.

Many of the beneficiaries have been living in the United States for more than two decades, as is the case of Sediles, who arrived in the United States in 1998, the same year that Hurricane Mitch hit Nicaragua. She has a 21-year-old son born in the US and will be appealing and processing her residency in the country through a family petition.

“There are people who, as is my case, will have to wait for the family petition process and will not have to suffer for TPS. It is also good for people to be informed, because many times uncertainty is due to lack of information,” she advised. However, not all Nicaraguans under TPS have options.

She explained that it is not yet known when the final decision will be made by the US government. “If the authorities decide to hear the case in court and an agreement has not been reached by November 30, TPS is extended for another nine months, but, if they decide not to hear (the case) we have to abide by the 120 days that the law gives us to be in the country.”

The fight for a redesign of TPS for Nicaraguans

Sediles indicated that, jointly with other migrant organizations, they are working to ask for a redesign of TPS that is broader for Nicaraguans, especially for those who entered the United States after 2018.

“There is support from congresspeople who sent a letter to the Biden Administration requesting a TPS be assigned for Nicaraguans because of the political situation, so that they have temporary relief, which is necessary, because they are already here, and will not have to go through an asylum process, because we already  know that most of them come because of the economic situation (derived from the socio-political crisis), and because of the natural disasters that have occurred,” she stressed.

So far, the White House has not issued any statement on the situation of TPS beneficiaries. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told Voice of America that it did not comment on ongoing litigation, but assured that “current TPS holders from El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua and Honduras will be protected during the coming months,” referring to November and December.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times