The Urgent Need for a New Designation of Temporary Protected Status for Countries Devastated by Hurricanes Iota and Eta

Flooding in colonia Lima, San Pedro Sula after Hurricane Iota in November 2020. Photo courtesy Radio Progreso / ERIC-SJ, one of the beneficiaries of funds raised by Alianza Americas, and Hispanic Federation that offers assistance to people affected in Honduras.

December 1, 2020 — The President must immediately grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to persons from countries devastated by Hurricanes Iota and Eta. These hurricanes hit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador within two weeks of each other causing catastrophic damage to countries already suffering from extreme poverty, violence, and the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic.


TPS is a lifesaving tool that provides protection to people living in the United States from countries experiencing problems making it difficult for nationals of those countries to be returned or deported there. Congress created TPS as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 in large part as a result of advocacy and efforts by Salvadoran communities living in the United States seeing their communities devastated by civil war. TPS grants the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to designate a country for TPS where the country is unable to handle the returning citizens safely. TPS may be designated for countries with ongoing armed conflicts, facing environmental disaster or epidemic, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. It provides temporary protections to people living in the U.S. from those countries making them eligible for employment authorization, an opportunity to travel outside the U.S., and protection from detention and deportation. 


This year, the hurricane season seriously affected the already precarious situation of several countries in Central America, some of which already have TPS for various reasons. In Nicaragua, hundreds of thousands of people were impacted by the storms. Many of the coastal areas remained without communication days after the storm passed. The economic damages caused in Nicaragua by hurricanes Eta and Iota are equivalent to 747 million dollars, reported the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.


Honduras suffered deadly landslides, flash flooding, and major destruction. Thousands of people are reported to be wandering in the streets with nowhere to live as their homes have been destroyed. The Honduran president said that 7% its GDP was wiped out by the pandemic and that the two deadly storms would create a ‘bomb that will leave the country and the region in a very difficult situation.” It is noteworthy that this country’s crisis has worsened from the moment Juan Orlando Hernández became president. Official corruption has become deeply embedded during his administration. Regretfully, the fight against Covid-19 has been severely undermined as a result of widespread corruption.

Flooding in the communities of Angostura and Triunfo de la Virgen in Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala after Hurricane Iota in November 2020. Photo courtesy of Colectivo Artesana, one of the beneficiaries of funds raised by Alianza Americas, and Hispanic Federation that offers assistance to people affected in Guatemala. 

In Guatemala, dozens of people have been missing as a result of landslides caused first by Hurricane Eta and then topped off by Iota. The triple impact of Eta, Iota and COVID-19 is leaving its mark on thousands of Guatemalan families who have lost their homes and family members due to landslides, flooding, wind damage, and mudslides. These families belong to historically discriminated groups. The Guatemalan rulers have structurally violated indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, and the impact of both hurricanes is quantified in the loss of their properties and cultivated lands, in addition to a series of damages that make their survival in their territory more precarious.


In El Salvador, hurricanes Eta and Iota struck as tropical depressions that left hundreds of families evacuated in territories where landslides and floods were the great threats. Earlier in the year, El Salvador’s economic infrastructure was severely impacted by two other tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal, which impacted there earlier in 2020.


When the precarious economic, social and political conditions of several Central American nations prior to 2020 are taken into account, and then add the effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the fact that all of Central America has been regarded as a highly vulnerable region from a climate change vulnerability perspective; and then the impact of all recent weather events such as Amanda, Cristobal, Eta and Iota; one has to conclude that nationals of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador living in the U.S. cannot return safely to their countries of origin due to the destruction and destabilization caused by the combination of all these factors, buy particularly, the effects of Hurricanes Iota and Eta. The President has an opportunity to provide humanitarian relief to people already living in the U.S. by authorizing a new TPS designation for the countries impacted by the storms. If the current President fails to act, the incoming President should take immediate action to ensure protection.

We invite you to join our campaign to address the urgent needs of those affected

Alianza Americas, Hispanic Federation and have joined forces to support the victims of Iota and Eta in Central America. Through the Central America Relief Fund, we are supporting allied organizations in the region who are carrying out humanitarian assistance to those affected. You can support this effort by making a donation. Learn more about the trusted organizations we are working with on our campaign web page.

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