Former DHS Official Slams Move to End ‘Temporary’ Protective Status from 1998 Hurricane

TPS Getty ImagesAFPB. R. Smith
Getty Images/AFP/B. R. Smith

Ex-Department of Homeland Security official James Nealon criticized his former office’s decision to end Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for tens of thousands of Hondurans Wednesday in the Washington Post.

“[L]et’s face it,” Nealon and co-author John Feeley write, “This isn’t who we are. We are a nation of immigrants, and it’s in our interest that we keep that dream alive for future generations.” [Emphasis added]

Nealon resigned in February after losing his fight to keep TPS in place for hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and Haitians in the United States, years or even decades after the natural disasters that initially justified that status.In the case of Honduras and Nicaragua, this “temporary” status had been extended continually since the late 1990s, following 1998’s Hurricane Mitch.

In November, Breitbart News uncovered Nealon’s unpublished memos urging then-acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke to extend TPS. In crafting its argument, Nealon’s memo relied on a variety of factors not specified by the relevant statute, including the fact the immigrants “work legally in great numbers” and are “liv[ing] the American dream.”

On Wednesday, after DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen added Honduras to the TPS chopping block, Nealon repeated many of the same arguments in a Washington Post op-ed co-authored with President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Panama, Feeley.

The piece, much like Nealon’s internal memo, argues that these Hondurans, who have no claim to legal status other than TPS, should not face deportation because most of them have jobs in the United States. Also, like his internal memo, it ignores any potential impact on the labor market for Americans, instead asking, “Why does the administration think this makes sense as an “America First” policy? Why would they take people who legally work, pay taxes, own homes, run businesses, employ others and obey the law, and shove them into the shadows?”

Nealon and Feeley admit the legal justification for these Hondurans’ TPS, avoiding sending them home to a hurricane ravaged country, no longer applies. “We understand how such arguments would make sense under a strict constructionist view,” they write, but substitute other justifications as to why they cannot be sent home:

But that needs to be weighed against the reality that the pathologies underlying the hurricane’s aftermath — extreme violence, lack of economic opportunity and poor governance — are the same factors that today drive irregular migration such as the caravan to the United States.

In their conclusions, however, the pair seem to acknowledge that mass Central American migration is not a boon for America. They laud aid programs designed to prevent Hondurans from making the illegal journey to the United States by improving the country. They then urge President Donald Trump to “listen to” U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has been the subject of fawning attention from elements of both the left-leaning and Never Trump press:

Trump’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants, recently visited Honduras and applauded the U.S. assistance programs designed to improve conditions there. When accused of “being a liberal,” she smiled and said, “I’m a conservative who understands that prevention saves us money in the long run.”

Then-DHS Secretary and now White House Chief of Staff John Kelly brought Nealon on as assistant secretary for international engagement at DHS’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans in 2017. Nealon served as Kelly’s civilian deputy when he led the U.S. Southern Command and later became Obama’s ambassador to Honduras. Nealon’s resignation in February followed not only the November Breitbart News scoop, but widespread reports that he clashed with administration immigration priorities.

Secretary Nielsen, who announced last week that TPS for Hondurans would expire after the same 18-month delay given to other continually-extended TPS countries, also joined the administration as a close confidant of Kelly, whom she replaced atop DHS. Despite a tough public stance on border security, Nielsen has reportedly clashed with the White House over illegal border crossings, which shot back up to the levels seen in the Obama administration under Nielsen’s watch, and a so-called “caravan” of hundreds of ostensible asylum seekers reaching the U.S. border.

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