(CNN) — Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced on Monday that Temporary Protected Status — a form of humanitarian relief — would be extended for Hondurans in the United States.
“During our meeting with acting-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (Chad Wolf), they told us that the TPS, which was due to end in January, will be extended,” Hernandez said.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. However, a posting on the USCIS website confirmed that Honduras — along with El Salvador, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan — will have their existing TPS status extended until October 2021.
TPS applies to people who would face extreme hardship if forced to return to homelands devastated by armed conflict or natural disasters, therefore the protections are limited to people already in the United States. TPS designation for both Honduras and Nicaragua was first granted after Hurricane Mitch tore through Central America in 1998, and some recipients of the status have now lived in the US for decades.
In November, Category 4 hurricanes Eta and Iota dealt devastating blows to Honduras as well as neighboring Nicaragua and Guatemala, with torrential rains causing flooding, landslides and the destruction of crops and infrastructure. Experts feared that the tens of thousands of people who took refuge in government shelters could also risk exposure to Covid-19. Extreme poverty is expected to follow in the storms’ wake.
“The economic damage caused by both storms, and the blow from the pandemic, has caused the Honduran economy to be greatly affected,” Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales said in a statement released Friday to announce that Honduras had requested the TPS extension, as well as the creation of a new TPS due to Iota and Eta.
“Reconstruction comes from a sustainable social and economic rebuilding, and our compatriots here in the United States can [help] achieve that by supporting their families in Honduras,” Rosales said. More than 44,000 Hondurans residing in the US are protected under the current TPS, according to the statement.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and Hernández have also called on the world’s wealthiest nations to help their countries recover from the hurricanes with financial assistance. The money could help stem future migration flows north, Giammattei has said.