Central American leaders call for TPS extensions

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imageImmigrant leaders from Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador gathered outside the federal building in downtown Los Angeles today to call for an extension of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) agreement that guards undocumented nationals from those countries against deportation.

Honduras and Nicaragua’s temporary protected status agreements began in 1999, after Hurricane Mitch destroyed much of their infrastructure. It began for El Salvador in 2001, after a series of earthquakes. The Department of Homeland Security has routinely extended these agreements since and the next round of extensions is expected to occur on schedule.

More importantly, the leaders want to remind the nearly 300,000 nationals from these three countries who will be eligible to extend their protected status to do so to avoid deportation.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced last week that the Obama administration has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants over the past year. For the Central American groups, extending these TPS agreements is only a small band-aid for a much larger problem. The ultimate goal is comprehensive immigration reform, citizenship for all undocumented Central American immigrants.

“We are living in the worst times in terms of anti-immigrant sentiment of the United States, said Francisco Rivera, President of Central American Round Table. “It’s in the best interest for the national security of this country to give a solution.”

While they want the TPS programs extended, the leaders note that beneficiaries end up spending a significant amount of money to participate. Julio Cardoza of Casa Nicaragua says the U.S. government has earned 60 million from Central American immigrants over the past decade from program fees for work permits.

“I think it’s enough money that they took from these people. We are supporting the economy, because it’s a tremendous amount of money,” Cardoza said. “That’s why we believe, in order to make justice for these people, we are asking to give them residency.”

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce expansion of the TPS program by November fifth.