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 1998 hurricane killed more than 2,000 people in Nicaragua and caused over $1 billion in damage. Haitians affected by the decision number 46,000.
They also said the program known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, would be extended until July 2018 for about 86,000 Honduran immigrants, but added it could then be terminated. Just under 60,000 Hondurans have received TPS.
TPS was established by Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990.
"We are sad by the news but feel fortunate that we got six months to keep lobbying in Washington", Portillo said.
Because of those continuous extensions, numerous people now facing deportation have been in the USA for almost two decades, including some who have raised families here.
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.
Congressional members, including Republican lawmakers, also called on the Trump administration to continue TPS. In its wake, the United States granted Nicaraguans and Hondurans a Temporary Protected Status (TPS), meaning they were sheltered from deportation and allowed to get things like jobs and insurance. Roughly 250,000 USA citizens are the offspring of TPS beneficiaries, so the announcement would likely force many families to make the hard decision of having to take their children with them. The Department of Homeland Security claimed that conditions in Nicaragua have improved enough to cancel the program. But the very nature of TPS is antithetical to the Trump administration's immigration policy.
"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.
The acting homeland security secretary says the program is no longer necessary for Nicaraguans in the U.S.
For Martínez, the elimination of TPS would mean having to forcefully return to El Salvador. "If the administration ends TPS for Haiti, it will indicate an ideological agenda, intentionally ignoring the clear facts on the ground and violating the national security interests of both nations". It's typically renewed every 18 months.
The DHS has given the Nicaraguan migrants 14 months to leave the US or change their immigration status.
The United States granted TPS to Haitian nationals living in the USA following the cataclysmic natural disaster in 2010 that left more than 300,000 dead, 1.5 million homeless and an equal number injured.
Proponents of TPS for people from Central America and Haiti argue that ending the designation for those countries is counterproductive and could also drive more illegal immigration. She said that there is a lot uncertainty, especially for those with little options to adjust their status and get permanent residency. "That hurts us all". "It is very important that these families not go back into the shadows and be fed into the deportation machinery".