The Trump administration is expected to end in January 2019 a special immigration status given to over 5,000 Nicaraguans that protects them from deportations.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said Monday that the Temporary Protected Status has run its course and is no longer necessary for Nicaraguan immigrants living in the U.S.
Immigrants living under such permit will be given 12 months’ notice in order to ensure a smooth return to their country and for the Nicaraguan government to prepare for the influx of the returning citizens.
“This will provide time for individuals with TPS to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible, or, if necessary, arrange for their departure,” the DHS statement read.
The program’s critics say the scheme allowed participants to continue extending their stays, effectively giving amnesty to those who immigrated illegally, despite no war or natural disasters in their country, according to Reuters.
Nicaraguans and Hondurans have been able to gain the permit since 1999 after the Clinton administration gave the status following Hurricane Mitch that wrecked the countries.
Duke said in the statement that the conditions caused by the hurricane “no longer exist, and thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”
The White House will also deliberate next year whether a similar program for more than 85,000 immigrants from Honduras should end as well. Duke delayed the final decision to learn more about the situation, but extended the status for six months – up until July 2018.
Both programs were set to expire in next year in January.
The TPS program covers more than 400,000 people from 9 countries that were subject to war or natural disasters and whose citizens came to the U.S – either legally or illegally – and prevents any deportations.
The scheme, initially enacted by a presidential decree back in 1990, was meant to be temporary, but both the Bush and Obama administrations extended the program, fearing the countries could not cope if the residents returned to their homelands.
Trump ended the permits for Sudan in September and issued a shorter program renewal for almost 60,000 immigrants from Haiti who were allowed to gain the permit following the 2010 earthquake.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.