Over the past year, the Trump administration has ended crucial protections for immigrants from six countries. Over 300,000 people are losing legal Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and more individuals may face the same fate in coming months.
TPS is a provision under which the government grants protection from deportation to people from certain countries afflicted by natural disasters, war, or other dangerous conditions.
These moves continue a series of cruel attacks on immigrants in the U.S. that rip apart families and hurt our communities. The administration must extend TPS. And Congress should enact a permanent solution that creates a roadmap to citizenship for recipients and the millions of other immigrants in the U.S.
Here's what you need to know:
1. What is TPS?
TPS is a life-saving immigration program that allows foreign nationals to remain in the U.S. if, while they were in the U.S., something catastrophic happened in their country of origin that prevented their safe return. Examples include war, famine, natural disaster, or epidemic. TPS protects people from deportation and allows them to work legally while they remain in the U.S. The program is a temporary, humanitarian form of relief that does not grant permanent residence in the United States.
It was created by a bipartisan act of Congress in 1990, allowing the Department of Homeland Security to grant the status when disasters strike.
2. Who benefits from TPS now?
TPS protects approximately 330,000 people in the U.S. from 10 countries who would otherwise be subjected to disease, violence, starvation, the aftermath of natural disasters, and other life-threatening conditions. The largest group of TPS recipients is from El Salvador (195,000 people) followed by Honduras (57,000 people) and Haiti (50,000 people).
3. Where does it stand now?
TPS community members, advocacy organizations, social justice groups, and other allies are working to prove that the administration was wrong—and discriminatory—in terminating TPS for impacted countries.
Multiple lawsuits are challenging the administration’s termination of TPS for several countries. Generally, the suits seek to stop the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing terminations. The suits also accuse the administration of ending TPS for certain countries based on racial discrimination and infringing on the constitutional rights of TPS beneficiaries, among other issues.
On Oct. 3, 2018, a lawsuit resulted in a temporary reprieve for some TPS holders. A federal judge blocked the termination of TPS for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Although the judge didn’t rule on the merits of the case, he stated that the beneficiaries, if deported, “indisputably will suffer irreparable harm and great hardship,” with many forced to choose between bringing their U.S.-born children with them or leaving them behind.
It's important to remember that this is a temporary victory. There are still many TPS holders who are not covered by those decisions. And even those protected by the injunction have a temporary reprieve, not permanent protection.
Here are the statutes of other TPS countries:
Honduras: In spring 2018, the administration announced that it would end TPS for Honduras, placing 57,000 people at risk for deportation. This is despite the fact that many Hondurans have fled the country because of violence, unemployment, deep poverty, and lack of opportunities. TPS is set to expire Jan. 5, 2020 for Honduras.
Nepal: TPS for Nepal, which has provided refuge to over 9,000 people, was terminated by the Trump administration and is set to expire June 24, 2019.
Syria: On Jan. 31, the administration announced that it would extend TPS status for Syria, leaving protections in place for nearly 7,000 people who have been in the U.S. since at least August 2016. However, Syria wasn’t redesignated for TPS, which was a change from previous decisions regarding that country’s status. That means that Syrians who entered the U.S. since August 2016 are not eligible despite the devastating civil war still raging in that country.
Yemen: In early July, the Trump administration announced it would extend TPS for Yemen, protecting an estimated 1,200 Yemenis from deportation. But the decision did not redesignate TPS for the country, meaning more recently arrival Yemeni nationals will not be eligble for TPS, despite the U.S.-backed war raging in Yemen.
Somalia: In late July, the Trump administration announced it would extend TPS for approximately 500 Somalis with TPS in the U.S. The administration did not redesignate TPS for Somalia—a country that continues to struggle with extreme violence—which would have allowed more recently arrived Somali national to apply for protection through TPS.
4. What would happen if TPS ended or was not extended for certain countries?
TPS recipients who aren’t eligible for other relief would lose their ability to work legally in the U.S., placing them at risk of being deported back to dangerous conditions in their home countries.
Ending TPS would hurt communities across the U.S. TPS recipients are deeply integrated into our communities. Recipients from the three countries with the largest TPS populations alone have nearly 273,000 children who were born in the U.S. They provide emotional and financial support to loved ones, and shoulder responsibilities in schools, churches, and civic organizations. Thousands more work as nannies, caregivers for seniors or people with disabilities, and in other professions critical to the health and well-being of our communities.
Most TPS recipients have been in the U.S. for decades, and TPS has allowed them to integrate into and contribute to the U.S. economy. Recipients from Honduras and El Salvador have been in the U.S. for at least 16 years, and half of them have been in here for over 20 years. The vast majority—88.5 percent—of TPS recipients participate in the labor force, which is much higher than the national average. Ending TPS would have a devastating impact on the social and economic fabric of cities and towns across the country.
Ending TPS would devastate our nation's economy. For example, terminating TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti would have significant and far-reaching economic impacts. Deporting these individuals would cost taxpayers over $3 billion. Over a decade, the inability of these individuals to work would result in over $45 billion in lost GDP and $6.9 billion in lost Social Security and Medicare contributions.
Moreover, employers would incur close to $1 billion in turnover costs for the wholesale termination of this population. The loss in GDP and turnover costs would be felt most acutely in the locations where Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians are primarily located, including major metropolitan areas in Florida, New York, California, Texas, Maryland, and Virginia.
Ending TPS would hurt regional security. Countries recovering from catastrophic events don't have the capacity to reabsorb tens of thousands of people. And the money that TPS holders send home serves as a lifeline to family and friends in devastated countries. Allowing TPS to continue promotes regional security. Terminating TPS before countries are sufficiently recovered will have a profoundly destabilizing effect. The impact will be felt in countries in need, by their neighbors, and inevitably at the U.S. borders, as more people flee their countries to save their lives and the lives of their families.
5. How do U.S. policies create the need for TPS?
The U.S. has a history of contributing to instability in countries covered by TPS. In Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Haiti, for example, U.S. foreign policy has long been characterized by cooperation with paramilitary forces and support for totalitarian regimes, which have created conditions in those countries that drive people from their homes.
And the U.S. continues to push for increased militarization of security in Central America, exacerbating violence and fueling forced migration—all while advocating for trade and investment policies that deepen poverty and inequality.
6. What can we do to protect TPS?
The law creating Temporary Protected Status and the granting of the status to various countries was the result of massive years-long mobilizations across the country of immigrants and their allies. We’re mobilizing once again to not only push for extensions for all 10 countries currently protected by TPS, but also to provide TPS holders a more permanent and secure status in the U.S.
Bills have been introduced in Congress that would protect TPS holders. At least one bill each in the House and the Senate would provide permanent legal residency and a pathway to citizenship for all TPS holders. Congress must pass legislation to protect these hundreds of thousands of people.
You can help:
Contact your members of Congress today. Ask them to: 1) tell the Department of Homeland Security to extend TPS and 2) to pass humane immigration policies that would create a roadmap to citizenship for TPS holders and all immigrants.
Ask your local and state elected officials to publicly support TPS and pass resolutions supporting the program.
You can find guides on how to advocate locally and on the federal level—as well as how to write an op-ed or letter to the editor and sample social media posts—in this Interfaith Toolkit to Defend Temporary Protected Status.