The Trump administration’s decision to end protections for hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and other immigrants came despite recommendations from career diplomats who called for the protections to be extended, according to findings from a congressional investigation.
CNN obtained a copy of an analysis conducted by Senate Democrats into communications from State Department career employees. The analysis sought to determine how the recommendations from career employees diverged from the recommendations of the then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The analysis reviewed diplomatic cables from the US embassies in El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua – countries that, combined, had hundreds of thousands of their citizens in the US under temporary protected status. That designation prevents the deportation of immigrants from countries suffering from conditions like natural disasters, epidemics and war, while giving them permission to work in the US. Most of those individuals had lived in the US upwards of 15 to 20 years.
The cables from embassies in El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras all argued extending TPS for those countries would be in the US national interest. The cables also warned repatriating the hundreds of thousands of immigrants, and potentially their US-citizen children, could be a major security hazard.
The cables argued forcing the immigrants to return to their home country puts them at risk of violence, recruitment and exploitation from rampant gang activity in Central America and Haiti. It could also jeopardize the ability of the national police in Haiti to be able to maintain security in the country, the cables argued.
The cables also warned the move could actually fuel illegal immigration to the US, and could result in retaliatory measures that would undermine the US ability to partner with allies in the region to improve security and economic conditions there, which could in turn affect the US.
When asked for comment on the analysis, the State Department told CNN, “We don’t discuss internal deliberations.” The Washington Post was first to report on the findings of the analysis.
In spite of the findings, Tillerson recommended ending the TPS status for those countries and the Department of Homeland Security has done so. In fact, DHS has ended protections for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan in the past year, affecting more than 425,000 people, according to government data.
The analysis corresponds with an internal DHS document, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, that showed the conditions in Haiti that triggered the TPS decision still exist. That country was ravaged by a major earthquake in 2010.
However, the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services recommended TPS status for Haitians be terminated anyway.
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Wednesday he is asking the Government Accountability Office to do its own report on politicization of TPS decisions after the committee minority’s review.
“I will fight against this cavalier-recklessness that would jeopardize our national security simply to fulfill a campaign promise and pursue an agenda of mass deportation that tears families apart, and separates mothers and fathers from their U.S. children,” Menendez said. “As the self-deportation deadline approaches for many of these TPS recipients, Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo should immediately open a serious review process to determine whether he can formally reverse the wrongful recommendation to deny these families protected status.”
CNN’s Laura Koran contributed to this report.