Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) led 20 colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke urging the Trump Administration to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals from Honduras and El Salvador living in the United States, who are contributing to the U.S. economy, paying taxes, and supporting their families. Temporary Protected Status allows individuals from countries with unsafe conditions, such as an ongoing armed conflict or a recent natural disaster, to stay in the United States and work legally. The designations are set to expire in January and March, respectively.
“Currently, approximately 200,000 Salvadorans and approximately 61,000 Hondurans live and work lawfully in the United States as recipients of TPS. These individuals are registered with DHS with biometric data on file. TPS beneficiaries are making valuable contributions to the U.S. economy… Salvadoran and Honduran beneficiaries, who are legally-sanctioned workers, provide important support to the U.S. construction industry, and these hard-working individuals will be essential contributors to the rebuilding efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” the Senators wrote in their letter.
“For almost 20 years, our country has welcomed and protected immigrants fleeing violence and turmoil in Honduras and El Salvador. These men and women have lived here legally for years – they have jobs and businesses and their children attend our schools. My office and I have worked with many of these families, and I have seen firsthand their impact on our communities and our economy,” said Senator Van Hollen. “If we do not act to extend this program, we will devastate families in Maryland and across our country.”
Expanding on the letter, Senator Cardin added, “In Maryland, there are more than 21,000 TPS recipients. These individuals make valuable contributions to Maryland businesses and our economy. Additionally, at a time when the U.S. is working with Central American governments to address critical challenges to citizen security, the rule of law, and human rights, renewing these TPS designations is not just humane; it is in the U.S. national security interest.”
Both Senators Van Hollen and Cardin have met with Marylanders directly affected by TPS. In their letter, the Senators highlighted the unique conditions in Honduras and El Salvador which provide a clear basis for TPS extension, including limited resources, high levels of violence, and widespread poverty. They stressed that sending tens of thousands of individuals back to these countries would have further destabilizing consequences.
“At a time when the U.S. is making our own investments to support security, stability and prosperity in Central America through foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement, a decision to not renew the TPS designation for these two countries would undercut the very strategic objectives we seek to achieve in Central America,” the Senators wrote.
Senators joining Cardin and Van Hollen include Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Conn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).
The full text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Rex Tillerson The Honorable Elaine C. Duke
Secretary of State Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of State U.S. Department of Homeland Security
2201 C St. NW 3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20520 Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Tillerson and Acting Secretary Duke:
We write to urge you to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for Honduras and El Salvador, which are due to expire in January and March of next year, respectively.
Currently, approximately 200,000 Salvadorans and approximately 61,000 Hondurans live and work lawfully in the United States as recipients of TPS. These individuals are registered with DHS with biometric data on file. TPS beneficiaries are making valuable contributions to the U.S. economy, with labor force participation rates of 81 percent for Salvadorans age 16 and older and 85 percent for Hondurans age 16 and older. Beneficiaries contribute over $648 million dollars annually to Social Security and Medicare. Additionally, Salvadoran and Honduran beneficiaries, who are legally-sanctioned workers, provide important support to the U.S. construction industry, and these hard-working individuals will be essential contributors to the rebuilding efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
In considering the extension of TPS designations for El Salvador and Honduras, we encourage you to consider the unique conditions in each country which provide a clear basis for TPS extension in accordance with the law. In El Salvador and Honduras, acute crises initially posed by natural disasters have had lasting effects, which have been exacerbated by subsequent environmental, economic, and security challenges. Efforts continue to rebuild infrastructure and provide dependable services to these populations, but these efforts are hampered by limited resources and high levels of violence and insecurity. Both countries suffer from some of the highest rates of homicides and sexual violence in the world. In 2016, the people of El Salvador were victims of over 5,200 homicides, an alarming rate of more than 80 per 100,000 people and the highest globally. In the case of Honduras, the high prevalence of violent crimes is further complicated by weak rule of law and the fact that some 95 percent of criminal offenses end in impunity.
These troubling security statistics are compounded by the fact that 66 percent of the Honduran population and 31 percent of the Salvadoran population live below the poverty line, according to the most recent World Bank data. Moreover, in 2016, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that due to a historic drought in the region, some 1.5 million people in Honduras and El Salvador are in need of humanitarian assistance. Clearly, neither country has the capacity and resources at this time to safely absorb the return of the tens of thousands of their nationals who are currently in the United States under TPS.
Finally, it is important to consider the full range of consequences if the TPS designation for El Salvador and Honduras is not extended. In the United States, we would lose tens of thousands of productive members of our labor force who contribute to our economic growth, pay their share of taxes, and make valuable contributions to key sectors of the U.S. economy. Countless families in El Salvador and Honduras would lose the economic lifeline they depend on through remittances from relatives working legally in the United States. The return of more than 250,000 individuals to Honduras and El Salvador would also have destabilizing consequences, straining recovery efforts and exacerbating existing challenges to achieving sustained economic growth and development.
Since 2014, the U.S. Government has greatly expanded its engagement with the Northern Triangle of Central America, in which El Salvador and Honduras are located, in order to address the underlying factors driving irregular immigration in the region. At a time when the U.S. is making our own investments to support security, stability and prosperity in Central America through foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement, a decision to not renew the TPS designation for these two countries would undercut the very strategic objectives we seek to achieve in Central America.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue, and we look forward to your response.