Nicaragua and Honduras bear the brunt of the hurricane’s destruction amid a record year of storms in the Atlantic.
Honduras asked the United States on Friday to prolong temporary migration protections for thousands of its citizens to mitigate the devastation of two recent hurricanes that hit Central America.
Slightly fewer than 80,000 Hondurans have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the US, the Congressional Research Service said in an October report, which prevents their removal from the country and allows them to work legally.
More than one million Hondurans currently live in the US, both with and without legal immigration status, and they send $5bn home annually, a major source of support for the Honduran economy.
In a statement on Friday, Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales said the country had requested “a new TPS” programme from the US government, adding that Washington would analyse the request.
Current TPS protection for Hondurans is set to expire on January 4.
“The social and economic situation of [Honduras] has been hard hit, not only by the pandemic, but also [hurricanes] Eta and Iota,” Rosales said.
“This obliges us to search for protection mechanisms for our fellow citizens in the United States.”
Eta and Iota caused serious damage to infrastructure, buildings and crops in Honduras when they struck in November, and killed about 100 people, according to the country’s disaster management agency, COPECO.
The Honduran government’s request comes after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in September lifted a preliminary injunction that had blocked President Donald Trump from ending TPS protection for people from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan.
TPS has been a target of the anti-immigration Trump administration since the president took office in 2017.
More than 400,000 people from 10 countries are protected by TPS, including about 250,000 from El Salvador, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Hondurans could apply for TPS protection after Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998.
Rosales presented the request to acting US Department of Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf in Washington, where he has been on a visit with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez since Thursday.
The Honduran delegation is trying to secure US aid to alleviate the destruction caused by last month’s hurricanes.
There was no immediate response from Washington about the request for a new TPS programme.
President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office on January 20 and is expected to ease some of Trump’s hardline immigration policies.