Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ignored the advice of senior U.S. diplomats and urged the Department of Homeland Security to end protections for 300,000 Central Americans and Haitians living under temporary protected status (TPS), current and former State Department officials told The Washington Post.
In cables, the diplomats said they were strongly opposed to ending the immigrants' TPS, because sending an influx of people back to those areas could lead to destabilization and launch a surge in new illegal immigration, the Post reports. Congress established TPS in 1990 with the goal of preventing the deportation of people from countries that are reeling from violence or natural disasters.
Several people told the Post that last October, Tillerson sent a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, claiming that conditions had improved in Haiti and Central America enough that immigrants from those areas no longer needed TPS. He told her this "was just something she had to do," but she discussed it with an aide who was once ambassador to Honduras, and he warned her that Honduras was in no way ready to accept so many people and that gangs would try to recruit the deportees.
When Duke announced she was not ready to make a decision and gave Honduras a six-month extension, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was enraged, the Post reports. Duke approached the issue "like a real human being," a former colleague told the Post, but she knew her career was finished and announced her resignation in February. Read more about the Trump administration's push to end TPS at The Washington Post.