The List: NJ’s Honduran Population Will Suffer from Loss of Protected Status

Colleen O'Dea | May 7, 2018 | The List
Administration’s decision to strip Hondurans of temporary protected status could affect 3,700 New Jersey residents and their communities

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Hondurans are the latest group of immigrants to lose the temporary protected status allowing them to stay in the United States.

An estimated 3,700 Hondurans living in New Jersey would have to leave the country by January 2020 under an order issued by Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, last Friday. In her order, Nielsen said conditions in the country have improved enough since the 1998 hurricane that prompted the issuance of the TPS by then-President Bill Clinton to allow the Hondurans to enter and remain in the United States.

Hurricane Mitch, which struck Honduras in October 1998, devastated the Caribbean nation, killing more than 7,000, wrecking 70 percent of the country’s transportation infrastructure, and leaving some 1.5 million people homeless. At the time, the Honduran president estimated that Mitch had undone 50 years of economic development.

Previously, the Trump administration has taken away temporary status from people who came to the U.S. from Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Nationals of four other countries — Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — are still the only ones with this protected status.

Temporary protected status, enacted as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, gives immigrants the ability to stay legally in the United States temporarily due to an armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary situation in their home countries. It provides these immigrants with no pathway to citizenship. Somalians have been able to remain in this country under TPS for the longest time, since September 1991.

Booker vows to fight

Nielsen’s latest announcement drew the ire of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who said he was appalled by the decision and would fight it.

“For centuries, our nation has stood as a beacon of hope for people forced to flee their native lands due to violence, terror, persecution, and oppression,” Booker said. “Honduras remains plagued by extreme violence and is unable to absorb this number of returnees and ensure their safety. Additionally, these Hondurans have an estimated 53,500 American-born children — citizens of our country whose parents are now faced with the agonizing choice of either leaving their kids behind in the U.S. or bringing them into a dangerous country. No parent should be forced to make such an awful decision.”

Hondurans were the second largest immigrant group with TPS both in the United States and in New Jersey, according to the Center for Migration Studies. Most numerous of those with TPS are immigrants from El Salvador, who number 6,800 in New Jersey. They lose their status on September 9, 2019. And 3,400 Haitians in New Jersey are scheduled to lose their status on June 22, 2019. No estimates are available for TPS immigrants from Nepal, Nicaragua or Sudan, the other countries whose immigrants will no longer be protected.

Roughly 3,700 Hondurans with TPS live in New Jersey, while another 3,700 New Jersey children have one or more parents with TPS, according to CMS. About 87 percent of the immigrants are working and three-quarters live above the poverty level, although just 28 percent have health insurance. Close to 20 percent have a mortgage. On average, the immigrants have lived in the state for a quarter of a century.

There is no data showing where the Honduran immigrants with TPS are living, but many are likely in communities with large Honduran populations.

According to the U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey, close to 51,000 Hondurans were living in New Jersey. Two of every 10 residents from Central American were of Honduran origin, with almost 35,000 of them immigrants.

These are the municipalities with the largest populations of Honduran immigrants, with figures based on the most recent five-year estimates from the ACS, covering the 2012-2016 period. Also provided are the numbers of immigrants from the other five countries whose natives will no longer have protected status:

1. New Brunswick

This Middlesex County city had the largest population of Honduran immigrants in the state, 2,878. They represented almost 14 percent of all immigrants. A total 3,430 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 112 from Haiti, 91 from El Salvador, and 335 from Nicaragua.

2. Union City

A Hispanic-majority community in Hudson County, Union City had 2,489 Honduran immigrants, 6.2 percent of all its immigrants. In total, 6,853 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 52 from Haiti, 4,178 from El Salvador, and 128 from Nicaragua.

3. Jersey City

Hudson County’s largest city had an estimated 2,352 immigrants from Honduras. They made up about 2 percent of the city’s foreign-born population. A total 5,780 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 175 from Nepal, 170 from Sudan, 1,522 from Haiti, 1,220 from El Salvador, and 267 from Nicaragua.

4. Elizabeth

This Union County city had 2,035 Honduran immigrants, who made up about 3 percent of all the foreign born. In total, 12,983 immigrants were from the six TPS countries — the most of any New Jersey municipality — with 4,058 from Haiti, 6,209 from El Salvador, and 678 from Nicaragua.

5. Newark

The state’s largest city had a Honduran foreign-born population of 1,944, 3 percent of all immigrants. In total, 7,273 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 35 from Sudan, 2,521 from Haiti, 2,319 from El Salvador, and 452 from Nicaragua.

6. Plainfield

This small city had 1,189 Honduran immigrants, making up 6 percent of all the foreign born. A total 4,710 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 39 from Nepal, 178 from Haiti, 3,271 from El Salvador, and 27 from Nicaragua.

7. North Bergen

Another Hudson County municipality, North Bergen had 1,14 Honduran immigrants, making up 4 percent of its foreign-born population. A total 3,367 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 115 from Sudan, 66 from Haiti, 1,901 from El Salvador, and 97 from Nicaragua.

8. West New York

Sandwiched between North Bergen and Union City, West New York has 1,119 immigrants from Honduras, or about 4 percent of its foreign-born population. A total 5,737 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 105 from Haiti, 4,295 from El Salvador, and 214 from Nicaragua.

9. Dover

This Morris County town had 1,011 Honduran immigrants, making up 12 percent of its foreign born population and the vast majority of its total of 1,150 immigrants from the six TPS countries. Another 116 were from El Salvador and 11 came from Nicaragua.

10. Lindenwold

The smallest municipality on the list, this Camden County borough had 710 Honduran immigrants, who made up 22 percent of its foreign-born population. A total 1,469 immigrants were from the six TPS countries, with 51 from Haiti, 635 from El Salvador, and 51 from Nicaragua.