Massachusetts congressmen blast federal decision ending protection for Hondurans as 'cruel,' 'un-American'

Publisher: 
Mass Live
Author: 
Shira Schoenberg
Publication Date: 
May 7, 2018
Advocates for immigrants, including U.S. Reps. Joe Kennedy and Jim McGovern, rally on behalf of TPS holders at the Statehouse on May 7, 2018.

Advocates for immigrants, including U.S. Reps. Joe Kennedy and Jim McGovern, rally on behalf of TPS holders at the Statehouse on May 7, 2018.(SHIRA SCHOENBERG / THE REPUBLICAN)

BOSTON — Days after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to end a protective program for Honduran refugees, two of Massachusetts’ U.S. congressmen slammed the move as “cruel.”

It is a cruel and un-American hand that extends hope and opportunity to then callously take it away,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, a Democrat representing Massachusetts’ 4th District, at a rally outside the Massachusetts Statehouse on Monday.

Temporary Protected Status is a designation that allows people from countries affected by wars or natural disasters to temporarily remain in the U.S. until their home countries are safe for them to return. The problem is that many of these countries remain unstable for years. Immigrants build their lives and have children in the U.S., making it difficult to go back.

There are currently 10 countries designated for TPS status. Since Trump took office, his administration has announced that it will end TPS for Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Sudan and Nepal. In each case, the U.S. has given the refugees time, generally 12 to 18 months, to move back or apply for other legal status.

On Friday, the administration added Honduras to the list. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said TPS would end for Honduras on Jan. 5, 2020.

Honduras was given TPS after Hurricane Mitch in 1999.

Since 1999, conditions in Honduras that resulted from the hurricane have notably improved,” Nielsen wrote in her announcement.

But immigrant advocates say Honduras is not a safe place for immigrants to return to. Patricia Montes, executive director of the immigrant rights group Centro Presente, said Honduras is the poorest country in Latin America, with 80 percent of people living in poverty. It is also one of the most violent countries in the world, with significant political repression.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat representing Massachusetts’ 2nd District, helped draft the TPS law when he was working for U.S. Rep. Joe Moakley in the 1980s. McGovern said TPS recipients must all pass background checks and are some of the “most law-abiding” people in the country. “How many people in the Trump administration can pass a background check?” McGovern said.

McGoven said there is little appetite to provide further protections to immigrants in the Republican-controlled Congress.

McGovern said advocates for immigrants should work to elect Democrats to Congress in November. He urged state lawmakers to pass the Safe Communities Act, which would generally prohibit state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials. He said Massachusetts should provide sanctuary to immigrants, and he voiced support for legal challenges to the Trump administration’s actions.

Throughout our history, when we have turned our backs on refugees, we have looked back on that with great shame,” McGovern said.

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