Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 30 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in formally requesting that the Biden administration grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) re-designations for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in addition to a new TPS designation for Guatemala. In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the senators expressed their grave concern with the worsening humanitarian conditions across Central America being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple devastating natural disasters, all of which have contributed to an uptick in outmigration from the region.

“The crisis in Central America is urgent…TPS designations and redesignations would provide critical protections for eligible beneficiaries and enable them to support basic needs of loved ones back home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration,” the senators wrote. “It is our assessment that the severe damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes just over one year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions, and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, warrant such an action by the Administration.”

Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to return safely to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions.

“Over one million Central Americans have been displaced by violence and insecurity. Gender-based violence continues to be a major driver of displacement, with rates increasing dramatically throughout 2020…Additionally, countries in the region have suffered severe democratic backsliding and political persecution is on the rise, including through the consolidation of a dictatorship in Nicaragua, the dismantling of independent judiciaries, and efforts to intimidate and silence civil society and independent media,” the senators added. “The Biden administration must act and provide certainty for eligible individuals from Central America during this challenging moment. These temporary designations would give the U.S. government more time to partner with governments and civil society to ensure that the return of a large number of individuals to Central America does not create further instability and volatility in the region.”

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