Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) led a bipartisan letter to President Biden, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the administration to expand Temporary Protected Status protections for migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Despite the ongoing humanitarian crises in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, citizens of these nations who flee to the United States without legal status face an uphill battle to remain in the country. If detained, they can face deportation back to countries beset by food insecurity, political conflict, and economic instability — challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and twin hurricanes that hit the region in November 2020. An estimated 1.5 million migrants in the United States would benefit from extending TPS to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Today’s letter is endorsed by United We Dream, Immigration Hub, Church Worldwide Services, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Latin America Working Group (LAWG), Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC).

Additional co-signers on the letter include Reps. Jim McGovern (MA-02), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Andre Carson (IN-07), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Anthony Brown (MD-04), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Lou Correa (CA-46), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Grace Meng (NY-06), Eleanor Norton (DC-AL), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Troy Carter (LA-02), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Mike Quigley (IL-5), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Henry “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-04), Darren Soto (FL-09), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Dina Titus (NV-01), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Thomas Suozzi (NY-03), Norma Torres (CA-35), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Judy Chu (CA-27), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Cori Bush (MO-01), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Andy Levin (MI-09), Karen Bass (CA-37), Jason Crow (CO-06), Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27), David Scott (GA-13), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Adam Smith (WA-09), Marie Newman (IL-03), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Sean Casten (IL-06), Al Lawson (FL-05), Donald McEachin (VA-04), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), David Cicilline (RI-01), Jerrold “Jerry” Nadler (NY-10), Gwen Moore (WI-04) , Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Haley Stevens (MI-11), and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL-23).

The full letter is here:

Dear President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas, and Secretary Blinken,

We write to urgently request your administration expand Temporary Protected Status protections for migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. We have watched with concern the worsening humanitarian crisis in Central American countries in the aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020, continued severe drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe designating Guatemala and redesignating El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would go a long way in assisting those communities in the United States and enable them to better support their families back home.

The pressures of the November 2020 hurricanes compounded with the long-term effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened food insecurity and violence in countries in Central America. Hurricanes Eta and Iota left over 9.3 million people, including 3.5 million children, affected and forced to leave their home communities. The hurricanes also left long-lasting damage by destroying key healthcare, education, and other infrastructure essential to everyday lives. Almost a year later, millions in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador still lacked access to humanitarian assistance, housing, and basic services.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the hurricanes interrupted the crucial flow of remittances to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, which served a crucial role in supporting the region’s economic recovery. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) estimates areas affected by the two hurricanes, as well as the Dry Corridor in Honduras and Guatemala, will remain in crisis levels of food insecurity through at least May 2022. Over 8 million people went hungry in 2021, quadrupling from 2018, and these numbers will continue to rise as we see the increased effects of climate change on agriculture outputs, security, and economic integration. As your administration has recognized climate change as a key contributor to migration, these designations would support the administration’s efforts to address the root causes of migration as communities in Central America have weathered the brunt of climate change’s effects including consecutive years of drought and extreme weather events.

The changing political dynamics in these countries also underscore the difficulties individuals face in returning home. For example, the crackdown on civil society, journalists, and other dissidents in Nicaragua over the last few years has worsened to the point where return for many Nicaraguans means imprisonment or other forms of punishment. Similar situations have emerged over the last year in El Salvador and Guatemala. The U.S. Government must respond to these developments by adding these TPS designations to the larger landscape of assistance for Central American countries and as part of the administration’s effort to curb corruption, impunity, and violence in the region.

We believe that conditions on the ground in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua constitute “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that prevent nationals from safely returning. These countries have been dealing with the aftermath of such events for years and as conditions continue to worsen and new challenges arise, the United States should provide temporary protection and refuge. Furthermore, these designations would provide the U.S. government with an important tool to address root causes of migration from Central American countries by helping increase the flow of remittances and supporting government efforts to address in-country conditions without the additional tax of a large influx of individuals forced to return home. The designation would likely protect nearly 1.5 million migrants currently in the United States, providing immediate relief to these individuals and their families. We ask that these TPS designations be paired with a robust and comprehensive messaging campaign that offers clear instructions regarding eligibility and application procedures, as to prevent confusion and mass migration that occurred after the May 2021 Haiti TPS designation.

It is our view that Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua meet the circumstances and standards for TPS. We look forward to continuing to support the efforts from your administration to address the root causes of migration in Central America in a holistic manner, including by taking this important step to uphold humanitarian protections and safeguard U.S. national security interests. Thank you for your consideration.