Nicaraguans fear deportation as US ends immigrant protection program

World Today

An American program for those escaping disaster and hardship is undergoing a big change. The “Temporary Protected Status” program allows immigrants from several countries to find safety in the U.S., but the Trump administrations is ending the program for Nicaraguans.

CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez spoke to one family who’s future is now uncertain.

Her son is an American citizen. She’s an immigrant from Nicaragua. And after living legally in the U.S. for almost 20 years, Yahaira Castano is now facing what she said is a real-life nightmare.

The Trump administration is ending the 1999 Temporary Protection Status program, also known as TPS, for her and nearly 2,500 other Nicaraguans. 

In a little more than a year, Castano has to leave the United States.

“I am scared, very scared,” she said. “I am married already. I have a son and I am scared about my son situation.”

In Nicaragua, she escaped political and social persecution as a lesbian. She said that her lifestyle is not acceptable in her home country, where the proper form of marriage is considered to be between a man and a woman.

Some of her family members died in the Nicaraguan revolution. Others, like her uncle, escaped after surviving imprisonment and torture. He’s now a human rights commissioner for Nicaragua living in Florida.

“I was in prison for 10 years. My father and brother were killed during the Revolution. We are products of a repressive government,” Roger Castano explained. “It would be impossible to go back to Nicaragua and try to start a new life. We will be persecuted by those who support  the Sandinista government.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has called on Congress to come up with a “permanent solution” for the temporary program. Lawmakers recently introduced a bill to give all TPS recipients a permanent work status, but it’s uncertain if it could pass under a Republican-controlled Congress.

The anxiety in Castano’s household is all consuming. Her partner is undocumented, and Yahaira may soon be as well.

When asked if she’s planning to leave in 14 months when the program expires, she said she’ll stay, but be undocumented.

“I have no choice. And the reason is that I do not want to go back to my country because of the two reasons I gave you. And the more important is my son. I want to give him the opportunities. That is the reason I came to the United States.”