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TPS for Central Americans expires soon. South Florida immigration advocates urge for their renewal

A Salvadoran man reads a newspaper at a market in San Salvador on January 8. The newspaper headline reads: "The United States will decide today the future of TPS."
Salvador Melendez
A Salvadoran man reads a newspaper at a market in San Salvador on January 8. The newspaper headline reads: "The United States will decide today the future of TPS."

Immigration advocacy groups in South Florida are urging the Biden administration to extend protections for Central American refugees that are due to run out in the coming months.

U.S. Temporary Protected Status expires for nationals from Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua this December, meaning they could be vulnerable to deportation back to their countries. The protections had been extended by 15 months last September.

Campaigners are also pushing for Guatemala to be covered under the TPS program.

Several immigrant advocacy groups in Florida gathered in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Miramar last week to call for immediate action from the federal government to make policy changes.

"Right now is the time for the Biden administration to act decisively to be the leaders that they promise to be," said Yareliz Mendez-Zamora who works with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a statewide organization that advocates for fair treatment of all Floridians, including immigrants.

Without these protections, immigrants exist in limbo, Mendez-Zamora said.

"We've seen these programs under attack when President Trump was in office. And so we know that these are vulnerable programs, right? But they're still very much life-saving programs," she said.

TPS protects immigrants fleeing from deportation during humanitarian crises or natural disasters in their home countries. The special status also allows immigrants to work in the U.S.

Campaigners want Guatemala to be included in the list after experiencing natural disasters in recent years like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

READ MORE: Why Biden Granted Venezuelans TPS — And What It Means For South Florida

The ICE facility in Miramar is where those seeking asylum, as well as refugees, people with TPS, and those with required check-ins go for their immigration appointments. In some cases, immigrants can also be detained there.

TPS is tenuous in nature, as the protected status only provides temporary relief, said Guadalupe De La Cruz, of the American Friends Service Committee of Florida.

"But we are we are also very much aware that there are so many other countries that would benefit from TPS expansion with designation," she added.

Her organization, which was one of the groups present at the ICE facility, provides some legal services to immigrants and undocumented people, to inform them which benefits to apply for.

De La Cruz hopes that their work can help address issues faced by immigrants going through the system.

"We’re seeing so many issues not just with getting connected with lawyers and helping them with their cases, but also access to food and access to housing [have] been some of the issues that we have been coming across when we were at Miramar," she said.

Several local leaders have also called for TPS renewal for certain Central American countries, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

In a letter sent earlier this month to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, she called for renewal and redesignation for Nicaraguans who have fled the authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega. TPS protection had originally covered those fleeing Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Alyssa Ramos is the multimedia producer for Morning Edition for WLRN. She produces regional stories for newscasts and manages digital content on WLRN.
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