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Over 120 faith-based organizations and 500 faith leaders signed on to a letter addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to extend and re-designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras.

TPS provides the administration the authority to ensure certain populations are not returned to dangerous or unstable situations that arise in their home countries, such as an earthquake, violent outbreak, or other temporary extraordinary circumstances.

Honduras was initially given TPS in 1999 following Hurricane Mitch. However, several factors have prevented Hondurans from being able to safely return to their country. The devastation from the hurricane alone set Honduras back 20 years socially and economically, and rebuilding efforts have only been slowed by later natural disasters, economic and agricultural losses, public health concerns, and a lack of infrastructure. These delays were further exacerbated by widespread gang violence and the recent contested presidential election in November 2017 that sparked ongoing protests.

Faith leaders are therefore urging Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to extend TPS for Honduras for at least 18 months, and re-designate the protection for Hondurans not currently protected.

See the full letter and a PDF with the full list of signatories below.

April 25, 2018

RE: Request to Extend Temporary Protected Status for Honduras for at Least 18 Months

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

On behalf of the 122 undersigned national, state, and local faith-based organizations, as well as 518 faith leaders from across traditions, we respectfully request that you extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras for at least 18 months. Our request is based on moral and legal principles. As people of faith, we are called to provide hospitality and protect those who are in need of safety. These same values have been confirmed and codified through international agreements and in U.S. law, which recognizes that people have a right to seek safety from dangerous conditions that threaten their lives. Such life-threatening conditions are present in Honduras today and would pose a serious risk to the health and safety of Honduran TPS holders if they were to be returned. Thus, an extension of TPS is warranted.

The decision whether or not to extend TPS for Honduras is due on May 4, 2018 and will affect nearly 60,000 Honduran TPS holders and their families, including over 53,000 U.S citizen children. Last December, Honduras received an automatic, six-month extension of TPS when Acting Secretary Duke was unable to render a decision to extend or terminate. Since that time, conditions in Honduras have worsened following a disputed presidential election.

Request for extension

TPS for Honduras was first designated in 1999 following the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. With 150 mile per hour winds and torrential rain for days, it was the deadliest hurricane in two hundred years and one of the strongest ever recorded. The hurricane killed 5,600 and displaced 1.4 million. Two-thirds of Honduras’ roads and bridges were destroyed. Key agriculture, including the banana and coffee plantations that the Honduran economy relies on, were wiped out. Across the country, people were left without adequate food, water, shelter, health care and other services. The United Nations reported that Hurricane Mitch set Honduras back 20 years, both socially and economically.

Honduras has struggled to recover from Hurricane Mitch and the resulting humanitarian crisis but progress has been slow, due to a number of factors. Over the years Honduras has received TPS, the U.S. government has cited subsequent natural disasters, economic and agricultural loss, lack of infrastructure, public health concerns, safety and violence problems and civil unrest as reasons why Honduras has not been able to sufficiently recover for the safe return of its nationals. In May 2016 (the decision just prior to the most recent automatic extension) DHS stated that, “despite rebuilding efforts, Honduras still faces a housing deficit of 1.1 million homes.” In that decision, DHS also noted that the agricultural sector continued to be seriously compromised, leaving the Honduran people without access to adequate food and a weakened economy.

Conditions remain today that prevent the safe return of nearly 60,000 Honduran TPS holders. Recent studies show that the housing crisis remains and is in fact worsening, with the deficient growing at nearly 100,000 homes per year. An estimated 638,000 do not have access to safe drinking water. Hondurans suffer chronic malnutrition and hunger, including 25 percent of children under age 5. Nearly 20 percent of the population does not have access to medical care. A March 2018 report by the United Nations noted that 60 percent of the population lives in entrenched poverty, 38 percent of whom live in extreme poverty.

Request for redesignation

In addition to the factors compelling extension, we also believe Honduras should be redesignated due to widespread gang violence and security concerns in the country. While some data shows a decrease in the homicide rate in recent years, the homicide rate in Honduras still remains one the highest in the world. There are approximately 190,000 people internally displaced in Honduras due to country’s violence with new displacements daily. Unable to respond to the current humanitarian crisis, the government has no capacity for sustained integration of a large number of TPS returnees, nor to provide civilian security and protection.

In late 2017 and early 2018, violence in the country escalated further as the result of a disputed presidential election. Dozens of protesters were killed, hundreds wounded, and over a thousand imprisoned from the excessive force used by state security forces. The U.N. Commission for Human Rights has repeatedly criticized the widespread and increased use of Honduran military in police functions in the last several years and its March report on the post-election violence it concludes that Honduras is in a fragile state for human rights, given the “high levels of violence and insecurity, a pervasive social conflict, and impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations and corruption.”

We believe it is unconscionable to send back the nearly 60,000 TPS holders from Honduras—who are our neighbors, our congregants, our pastors, and faith and community leaders—given the conditions. Should they be returned to Honduras, they would be at extreme risk of hunger, thirst, and homelessness. Vulnerable due to their affiliation with the U.S., they would be prime targets for extortion and violence. Without question, families would be torn apart as Honduran TPS parents are faced with the impossible decision to be separated from U.S. citizen children, or bring them into harm’s way. The country and the region as a whole would further be destabilized by the loss of remittances that Honduran TPS holders are sending home from the U.S. to support family and friends. In all, not only would terminating TPS for Honduras put TPS holders and their families at risk, it would trigger a new wave of migration to the U.S. as desperate people flee the humanitarian crisis and violence.

We thank you for taking these concerns into consideration. We urge the administration to extend TPS for our Honduran sisters and brothers, and we will hold you in prayer as you make your decision.