Senior State Department officials and career diplomats repeatedly warned the Trump administration that taking away legal protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti would put national security, foreign relations, and the immigrants’ American-born children at risk, according to internal State Department documents.
But Trump did it anyway — and concerns about the 2020 election appear to have helped determine the timeline for requiring immigrants to leave, according to the documents, which will be released in a report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
About 400,000 citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti have been able to stay in the US through Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a protection allowing them to legally live and work in the US typically offered to citizens of countries suffering from natural disasters or armed conflict.
President Donald Trump tried to end TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, among others, starting in November 2017. He argued that conditions in those countries have improved enough that their citizens can now safely return.
“The law is relatively explicit that if the conditions on the ground do not support a TPS designation, the [administration] must terminate the TPS designation,” a senior administration official told reporters at the time.
The almost 80 pages of internal State Department memos and diplomatic cables — obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of an investigation commissioned by Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the committee — show that senior agency officials advised former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that revoking TPS would destabilize the three countries and recommending that, if he must end the program, it should be wound down over three years.
But a State Department policy memo from 2017 also noted that this would put the end of the program “directly in the middle of the 2020 election cycle.” Tillerson scribbled on the memo that the wind-down period should instead be 18 months — a decision that ran counter to every recommendation by career diplomats in the State Department. [Continue reading…]