As TPS ends, New Yorkers face breakup of families

Giddel Contreras and his wife Maribel Hernandez Rivera are planning for the worst. Contreras is a Honduran national whose future is unknown.

23 years ago, at the age of 18, he decided to cross the border on his own. He left his country to find a better life, he said, and escape the drugs and crime.

In 1998, three years after arriving in the U.S., Contreras went from living in the shadows to living like any other American citizen. Contreras obtained Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS. Honduras had suffered a natural disaster that year so the U.S. government granted TPS to Hondurans allowing them to remain in the U.S. legally.

He earned his GED, got a driver's license, went to culinary school, and became a chef. He also married and had a child.

But after years of renewing his TPS and having a clean record, it all shattered on May 4 when the Trump administration announced its decision to terminate the temporary protected status designated for Honduras.

On January 5, 2020, Contreras and the approximately 3,000 Honduran TPS recipients living in New York City could face deportation. His wife, Maribel, an American citizen and an immigration attorney, said she never saw this coming.

Giddel's case is a complicated one. He was undocumented for three years prior to being granted TPS. As a result, he can't obtain a green card even though he is married to a United States citizen.

NYC Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Bitta Mostofi talked to Fox 5 about the economic impact on the city if TPS holders are deported.

"These people have had work authorizations this entire time they have had TPS, meaning they are working, paying taxes," she said. "They are vastly strong in our labor force including in health services, in education, and in construction."

Nationally, more than 300,000 individuals have Temporary Protect Status. An estimated 15,000 live in New York City. The majority of them are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.

"Our estimates are also that they have contributed over $500 million in our city's GDP last year," Mostofi said.

Contreras now has over a year to figure out if there is a way he can stay in the country. He and his wife are talking to immigration lawyers to see if he possibly has a path to citizenship. Contreras, like many, has grown to love and call America his home.

TPS has also been terminated for the people of Sudan, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Nepal. However, on January 31 the administration announced that it would extend TPS for Syria, leaving protections in place for nearly 7,000 Syrians.