CLINIC’s Executive Director Jeanne Atkinson joined the leaders of other major Catholic agencies that work to support immigrants and refugees have urged the head of the Department of Homeland Security to extend Temporary Protected Status for Honduras and El Salvador.
Dear Secretary Duke,
We, the undersigned, write on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) to urge you to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation of Honduras and El Salvador for 18 months. As you know, while the current TPS designation extends through January 5, 2018 for Honduras and through March 9, 2018 for El Salvador, pursuant to statutory requirements, a decision to extend or terminate TPS for the countries must be made by November 6, 2017 and January 8, 2018, respectively. From our recent delegation trip to the region on August 13-19, 2017, our presence and work in the region and with affected communities in the U.S., we know firsthand that these countries are not currently in a position to adequately handle the return of their nationals who currently have TPS.
The Catholic Church’s deep concern for individuals from these countries is rooted in our experience as an immigrant church and in Catholic Social Teaching. Many of the dioceses in the United States have direct relationships of pastoral care and outreach with Hondurans and Salvadorans. And, we believe that God has called on us, as part of our life of faith, to care for the foreigner and the marginalized: “For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving them food and clothing. So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt
Bishop David O’Connell of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Bishop Vasquez of the Diocese of Austin led the USCCB’s August delegation trip to Honduras and El Salvador to express solidarity with those impacted by the imminent decisions and to assess the countries’ abilities to adequately accept and integrate individuals if TPS is terminated. As discussed in the trip report, Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle, an extension of TPS for both countries is crucial for humanitarian, regional security, and economic stability reasons. Honduras and El Salvador lack the capacity to adequately receive, protect, and welcome TPS returnees at this time. Specifically, the delegation found that:
- Entire families, not just children, currently face targeted violence in the countries;
- Large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Honduras (~174,000) and El Salvador (~220,000 – 400,000) continue to be displaced, illustrating already existing safety issues and the growing humanitarian protection challenges in both countries;
- The Honduran government does not have the capacity at this time to adequately handle the return of nationals with TPS because it lacks knowledge of the impacted population and lacks an adequate reception, protection, and integration system for the already large numbers of IDPs and returnees (almost 70,000 in 2016); and
- Similarly, the Salvadoran government does not currently have the capacity to adequately handle the return of its TPS population as evidenced by its failure to address citizen safety and humanitarian concerns related to its large-scale internal displacement, as well as due to its lack of an adequate reception, protection, and integration system for IDPs and annual returnees (52,560 in 2016).
Terminating TPS at this time would be inhumane and untenable. Given the current country conditions, Honduras is in no position to accommodate the return of an estimated 57,000 Hondurans who have received TPS from the United States; nor is El Salvador in any position to accommodate the return of roughly 200,000 Salvadorans. Doing so in either case would likely destabilize these key strategic, regional partners and potentially bring harm to those returned. In addition, terminating TPS would needlessly add large numbers of Hondurans and Salvadorans to the undocumented population in the U.S., lead to family separation, and unnecessarily cause the Department of Homeland Security to expend resources on individuals who are already registered with our government and whose safe return is forestalled by dire humanitarian conditions.
Based on the above facts and further analysis in our trip report, we urge you to extend the TPS designation for Honduras and El Salvador, pursuant to Section 244(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,  until individuals’ return and reintegration to the two countries can be safely accomplished. This will allow Hondurans and Salvadorans to continue to legally work, contribute to U.S. communities in an authorized capacity, and maintain safe, stable lives, and human dignity for their families, many of which include U.S. citizens. We ask you to show compassion and patience as Honduras and El Salvador continue to improve their citizen security and humanitarian capacity for reception, protection, and integration.
We appreciate your consideration of this request. The Catholic Church stands ready to support measures to protect the well-being and dignity of Honduran and Salvadoran families as the two countries are on the path to reform, addressing citizen security and building protection infrastructure.
Most Rev. Joe S. Vasquez, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration
Sean Callahan, President/CEO, Catholic Relief Services
Jeanne M. Atkinson, Esq., Executive Director, Catholic Legal Immigration, Network Inc. (CLINIC)
Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA