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As Honduran Immigrants Await News On Legal Status, Violent Protests Continue At Home

Dec 20, 2017

Hundreds of Honduran immigrants in Connecticut and Massachusetts will find out in the coming months whether they’ll be allowed to stay in the U.S. or face possible deportation. This comes as violent protests continue in Honduras following a contested presidential election.

Fausto Canelas was a farmer in Honduras who fled to Connecticut in the mid-1990s.

“I came here out of fear for my life because some gang members had stolen a few of my animals and I tried to recuperate them and they threatened my life and I knew that I had to leave,” he said through a translator.

He entered the U.S. illegally in 1996 and said at the time, Honduras was experiencing economic development. But things changed two years later when a major hurricane devastated much of the country’s infrastructure.

“The hurricane arrived and it destroyed a lot of the highways, the bridges, the roads,” said Canelas. “Apart from that, a lot of the governments that had been ruling us for the past 15 or 20 years have had a lot of corruption.”

Temporary Protected Status is assigned to certain countries where environmental disasters and armed conflict make it extraordinarily difficult for people to live safely. Honduras was granted that status in 1999. The TPS designation allowed Canelas to gain legal status in the U.S.

The 70-year old grandfather has worked as a janitor, supporting 10 family members back in Honduras.

Now the Trump administration is considering whether the conditions that led to TPS for Honduras still exist or if the designation should be terminated. If that happens, Canelas reverts back to his previous undocumented status, and that could lead to his deportation.

Alex Meyerovich, an immigration attorney in Bridgeport, said because Honduras has one of the longest-standing TPS designations, ending it would have a profound effect on TPS holders and their families.

“In 20 years, people buy houses, they have jobs, they raise families,” said Meyerovich. Now let’s assume an individual is a citizen of Honduras with a prior deportation order. So come next year, Honduran TPS is not extended, that’s it. Bye-bye.”

Honduras has been rocked in the past few weeks by violent protests in the wake of a November presidential election. Earlier this week, an electoral tribunal declared the incumbent president the winner.

Almost immediately, the Organization of American States called for new elections, citing “deliberate intrusions into the computer system that counted the vote.” And supporters of the opposition candidate were again back on the streets.

“They’re blocking major roads, burning tires in the capitol and other cities throughout the country,” reported NPR’s Carrie Kahn. “The scenes on national TV show the military and national police lobbing tear gas at protesters.”

Human rights groups say at least 22 protesters have been killed since the election.

Canelas said fear is running high among TPS holders and their families. And if the Trump administration ends TPS for Honduras, Canelas warns the move could backfire. Rather than thousands of deported people returning to Honduras, the political unrest there could lead an even greater number of people to turn around and come back to the U.S.