Darren Soto urges protective status for Central American hurricane refugees

Darren Soto
Central America was pounded last year by two major hurricanes back to back.

Immigrants from four Central American countries battered in November by two devastating hurricanes should be eligible to stay in the United States with temporary protected status, Democratic Rep. Darren Soto urged Tuesday.

Soto of Kissimmee, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and several immigration advocates called Tuesday for President Joe Biden to extend TPS protection to refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

Those four countries, already beleaguered by acute and chronic economic and political problems, were blasted by Category 4 Hurricane Eta and then Category 5 Hurricane Iota within weeks of each other in November.

TPS status is a tool used by American governments to provide temporary refuge to people already in the United States who are citizens of countries beset with armed conflict, such as Syria, or with natural disasters, such as Haiti, to the point that it would be too dangerous for those people to return to their home countries anytime soon.

Soto also used the call to renew his longstanding plea for TPS status for Venezuelan refugees in the United States. He contended that such calls are more likely to produce results under President Joe Biden than under now-former President Donald Trump.

“We know it’s a new day in Washington, partly as we look to a more humane, more comprehensive, and a more workable immigration policy here in the United States under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris,” Soto said.

Some immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras already have TPS status in the United States, extended after Hurricane Mitch slammed those countries in 1998.

Those on the media call with Soto and Kaine Tuesday contended Eta and Iota were a double punch comparable to Mitch in causing damage to the countries’ infrastructure and health care systems, and the punches came in the middle of a pandemic.

Humanitarian aid worker George Redman, with Oxfam, has been working in Honduras since Hurricane Mitch.

“I have never seen the situation so desperate and I have never seen people so lacking in hope,” Redman said.

The governments of Honduras and Guatemala have requested TPS status for their citizens in the United States. Nicaragua and El Salvador have not.

Tom Jawetz, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said he expects Biden to sign a number of executive orders on Friday dealing with immigration and refugees and hopes the plight of Central Americans in the United States will be covered.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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