MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Last night, the Department of Homeland Security ended the program that has protected close to 57,000 Hondurans from deportation. The decision follows similar actions by the administration revoking deportation protections from several hundred thousand immigrants from other countries. NPR's Richard Gonzales has this report.
RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Hondurans have benefited from the program called Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, since 1999. A year earlier, Hurricane Mitch had slammed into that Central American nation, killing thousands and creating a humanitarian crisis. In her statement, Secretary Nielsen said that conditions in that country had notably improved and there's been a substantial post-hurricane recovery. Supporters of the administration's immigration policies applauded the announcement to end TPS.
MARK KRIKORIAN: The hurricane that justified it in the first place was two decades ago.
GONZALES: Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates immigration limits. He says TPS was never meant to be permanent.
KRIKORIAN: And at some point, temporary needs to mean temporary.
GONZALES: The administration already has ended TPS for immigrants from five other countries - El Salvador, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Immigrant advocates say in the case of Honduras, the administration is well aware of conditions on the ground, where hunger, political instability, and violent crime remain facts of life. Jill Marie Bussey is with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
JILL MARIE BUSSEY: Even our own U.S. Department of State advises all Americans to not travel to Honduras because of violent crime rates like homicide and gang activity.
GONZALES: And that's what 55-year-old Orlando Lopez fears. He's had temporary protected status for almost two decades, and he's built a small trucking business in Florida. Lopez says, the ending of TPS for Hondurans would be a disaster.
ORLANDO LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
GONZALES: "To return to Honduras right now is like going to look for death," he says, "because crime is so rampant there." Lopez and tens of thousands of other Hondurans have a deadline of January 2020 to leave the country. He says he doesn't know whether he'll go back or try to remain here illegally. He says, I will have to leave that in God's hands. Richard Gonzales, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.