In a statement issued Monday night, the Department of Homeland Security said that Nicaraguans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have until January 5, 2019 in order to return home or seek a permanent immigration status.
The decision affects about 2,500 Nicaraguans, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for almost two decades, raising US-born children.
But supporters of the program say Nicaraguan TPS holders have deep roots in the community and have been in the country for decades.
Speaking with reporter by phone Monday night, acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke said Nicaraguans living in the US had 12 months to "seek alternative lawful immigration status" or make arrangements for their departure.
They also said the program known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, would be extended until July 2018 for about 86,000 Honduran immigrants, but added it could then be terminated. TPS for those 260,000 Salvadorans, the largest group of beneficiaries, expires in March.
Given that numerous TPS recipients have been in this country for decades, administration officials said the White House would look to Congress to offer a permanent solution for TPS holders. Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans can lose TPS status as compared to the 30,000 Salvadorans who have DACA, according to figures on the Department of Homeland Security's website.
The decision to end the status for Nicaraguans could be seen as a move to fulfil Trump's vow to tighten restrictions on immigration.
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"We recognize that it's a sovereign decision of the USA, but we see also how troubled our compatriots are", Hernandez said.
Asked whether the Nicaraguan TSP recipients would be subject to deportation once their protection runs out, one administration official said: "We prioritize criminal aliens and those who have a final order of removal".
The decision was made by Duke, in consultation with the State Department and other agencies, based on her review of the conditions and the requirements of the law, according to a DHS official, denying there was any pressure from the White House.
In September, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the president of El Salvador spoke to the United Nations General Assembly and asked that the USA extend TPS to the 195,000 Salvadorans already living in the country.
The status was granted to Nicaraguans in the US following Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Haiti received its initial TPS designation in 2010 after an quake left 1.5 million people homeless and injured 300,000 people.
Belinda Osorio, a Honduran-American who lives and works in Florida and has been in the US for decades through TPS, told reporters at a conference call on Tuesday that she would not put her 14-year-old son in danger by going back to Honduras, regardless of the administration's eventual decision.
Previous administrations had found that the hurricane and subsequent environmental disasters disrupted living conditions to the point that the government couldn't adequately handle the return of its nationals. DHS had announced six months earlier that it was extending the protection for just another six months so for immigrants to prepare to go back.