On Friday, while much of the news cycle was consumed by the blizzard of tawdry Stormy Daniels–related headlines, the Trump administration announced that it was ending Temporary Protected Status for tens of thousands of Hondurans living in the United States. Immigrant-rights groups estimate this will affect at least 57,000 individuals.
Behind those numbers are real people, with real emotions, and real families about to be torn asunder. Women like Sonia Paz, a longtime Los Angeles resident, with three children and seven grandkids. Men like Victor Diaz, who fled starvation wages on a coffee plantation in the early 1990s and now lives and works in Richmond, California; and Mario Guzman, who departed Honduras after being tortured in an army-run jail and has worked as a trash collector in Northern California for nearly a quarter-century.
I wrote about these three, and many others, for The Nation in early January, when it became clear that Trump was going to largely dismantle TPS in 2018.
The announcement regarding the Hondurans wasn’t a surprise. It was, in many ways, the last nail in the coffin for TPS, which has been one of the most successful American humanitarian programs in recent decades, but which Trump loathes because it has provided residency protection to foreigners from what he calls “shithole countries.” Over the past several months, some 200,000 Salvadorans, who have lived here with legal paperwork for two decades, have had their status revoked; so too have tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, Haitians, Sudanese, Nepalese, and others. Now it is the turn of Hondurans to face the wrath of a malign federal government.
But just because it wasn’t a surprise doesn’t make it any less outrageous.
Those who defend the repatriations argue that TPS residency was always intended to be a temporary reprieve rather than a permanent condition. In theory, that’s true. But in practice, one administration after the next has kicked this issue down the road, preferring to keep the status quo rather than work out a long-term solution. As a result, as the decades have gone by, the TPS men and women have gotten on with their lives and have essentially become American, contributing to our economy and society through their hard work.
Many of the Hondurans and Salvadorans arrived as young adults in the 1980s and ’90s. Now they are deep into middle age, and, because their status has never been normalized, they have suddenly become prey to the machinations of a demagogic nativist in the White House.
Between them, these men and women have several hundred thousand US-citizen children—the Hondurans alone are estimated by immigrant-rights groups to have more than 50,000 kids who were born in the United States. Common sense indicates that it would be a good thing to keep these families together; basic empathy ought to show that ripping parents away from their children will have calamitous psychological impacts. But empathy is in perilously short supply these days; witness the administration’s refusal to even begin processing asylum requests from the men, women, and children who, fleeing drug gangs and epidemic levels of violence, walked all the way from Central America to the Tijuana–San Diego border in recent months.
And so Honduran adults will return—either “voluntarily” or after deportation—to a country plagued by violence, endemic poverty, and a corrupt government that offers them and their offspring no hope and no future. So large numbers of these children will end up with relatives or friends in the United States. And because most of these people originally entered the United States illegally, before being granted TPS, once their status is revoked they likely won’t be able to reenter the country in the near future without risking severe criminal penalties.
In essence, the Trump administration has embarked on a deliberate, and entirely gratuitous, policy of breaking up families. Trump’s gang of bigots is doing all of this in your name, in my name, in the name of everybody who lives in this democracy. And because they are doing it in our names, we have a moral obligation to stand up and say no. We must make this a line-in-the-sand issue and demand that our legislators protect these families before Trump’s wrecking ball descends. And we must rally our communities to stand up not only for those being deported but also for the tens of thousands of children who will be left behind.