Mass. Is 'Where I Will Feel Safe': Hondurans React To Losing Immigration Protection

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The Trump administration announced Friday that an immigration protection known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will expire for Hondurans in January of 2020.

Temporary Protected Status is just that — a temporary immigration status granted to individuals from certain countries hit hard by natural disasters, war or disease.

Honduras was granted TPS in 1999 after a deadly hurricane devastated the country. TPS allows eligible Hondurans to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. The federal government has continually renewed the nation's status.

Omar Rodriguez, 57, has been living in Massachusetts with TPS for almost 20 years. A native of Honduras, Rodriguez now lives in Framingham and owns two businesses. He says his whole life is here, and he does not plan on leaving any time soon. He instead hopes to apply for asylum status.

"Where I will feel safe is Massachusetts because this is my new home, this is my new life," he said.

Senior Trump administration officials say it's time to end TPS for Honduras because conditions related to the hurricane in 1998 have improved significantly.

But Rodriguez isn't worried about the hurricane recovery; he's fearful of being harmed in his home country.

Rodriguez says organized crime and gangs are a big problem in Honduras and returning there after being a successful business owner here in the U.S. essentially puts a target on his head. In fact, the U.S. State Department instructs U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Honduras because of violent crime.

"I know I will put my life in risk," he said. "Why? Because if they think I got a lot of money, they will [try] kidnapping [me], abduction ... they will hurt my family to get money."

A number of Massachusetts government officials are calling on the federal government to extend the protections to Hondurans, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Chelsea City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria.

DeMaria says these native-born Hondurans are productive members of local communities who should be allowed to stay.

"They are working. They are receiving no benefits from the government. They are paying taxes, they are raising families. Their kids are American-born," DeMaria said.

But, senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security have said renewal decisions around TPS should only consider the conditions on the ground stemming from the event that triggered the designation in the first place. For Honduras, that was Hurricane Mitch. In a statement, officials said:

"To allow for an orderly transition, the effective date of the termination of TPS for Honduras will be delayed 18 months to provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible. Honduran citizens in the United States who benefited from TPS may still receive other protections under our immigration system for which they are eligible."

Officials say Hondurans living in the U.S. with TPS will lose work authorization and legal status as of Jan. 5, 2020. For the nearly 1,000 Hondurans with TPS in Massachusetts, that means they have less than two years to make plans to return to their home country or explore other options they may have to stay in the U.S.

This segment aired on May 4, 2018.


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Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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