Politics of Poverty

Refugees fleeing violence at our doorstep: Will we send them and TPS holders back to danger?

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Fence along the border between the United States and Mexico. (Photo: Latin America Working Group staff)

Central American refugee caravan arrives at US-Mexico border on the eve of the Trump administration’s decision on Temporary Protected Status for 57,000 Hondurans, potentially sending them to the same unsafe conditions the caravan members fled.

The refugee caravan that the president, the attorney general, and the director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called a threat to national security arrived at the US-Mexican border entry point at San Ysidro, California on Sunday, April 29.  Coincidentally, they arrived the same week DHS must decide whether to extend or end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans.

The caravan, which started with nearly 1,500 people, has dwindled to 130 families and individuals (mostly women and children) who are seeking political asylum after fleeing their countries due to threats to their lives and livelihoods. Under US and international law, US immigration officials are required to admit any individual who requests asylum due to credible fear of violence or persecution if forced to return to his or her country.

Foreign policy experts and mainstream media outlets describe the situation in Honduras and neighboring countries as a humanitarian crisis.  El Salvador and Honduras are ranked as the most violent places in the world along with Syria and Afghanistan. Gangs use violence and especially sexual violence as a strategy to maintain fear and control over populations and territories. Police and the military have also been implicated in extra-judicial killings and violence against women (including rape and sexual abuse), especially after the electoral crisis in Honduras. With impunity rates hovering at 95 percent, there is no justice for these crimes. It’s no wonder why people who made the grueling trip through Mexico in the caravan are seeking asylum.

So this week, while the final caravan members wait at the border, the Trump administration will decide whether or not to send 57,000 Hondurans back to one of the countries from which the caravaners fled. Given the administration’s negative track record on Haiti, El Salvador, and other TPS designated countries, expectations are grim. DHS will likely end TPS for Honduras, giving thousands of families only enough time to decide whether to take their US-born children back to a dangerous country, to sell their homes or keep them in hopes that things will change, or make the equally perilous decision to stay in the US without documents.  What would you do in their position?

Oxfam has strongly condemned the administration’s heartless TPS decisions thus far and we will continue to call on our elected officials in Washington, DC to pass legislation that creates a path to citizenship for all TPS holders from Central America.  In Honduras and El Salvador, our offices are grappling with the worst-case scenario of having to absorb thousands of deported expats while continuing to address the root causes of violence and poverty that continue to drive others to flee. Join us in calling for a permanent legislative solution for TPS holders by calling your senators and representatives (Capitol switchboard – (202) 224-3121) and support our work addressing the driving factors for out-migration in Central America.

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