Editor's note: This blog post was updated on Feb. 1, 2018.
In the last few months, the Trump Administration ended crucial protections for immigrants from four countries. Over 250,000 people are losing legal Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and thousands more 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?
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.
El Salvador: In January, the administration announced that it was terminating TPS for El Salvador, giving almost 200,000 people only 18 months before their legal status would be ripped away from them. This decision was made despite El Salvador’s sky-high rates of violent crime and complete inability to safely integrate hundreds of thousands of people who have lived in the U.S. for decades.
Haiti: Last November, the administration announced that it would terminate TPS for Haiti, affecting over 50,000 people who were also given 18 months before their status would be revoked. The decision was made despite the country's incomplete recovery from the massive earthquake in 2010—a situation that was exacerbated by Hurricane Matthew, which killed hundreds of people last year, and an unprecedented cholera epidemic.
Nicaragua: Earlier in November, the administration also terminated TPS for Nicaragua, dooming 2,500 immigrants from that country to the same fate.
Honduras: Also in November, the administration refused to make a decision for Honduras, which resulted in an automatic six-month extension of their status, leaving 57,000 people and their families in excruciating limbo.
Sudan: In September 2017, the administration terminated TPS for the Sudan, despite a recent United Nations report that 2.3 million people have been displaced by violence in the Sudan as well as a growing cholera epidemic and emergency food shortages.
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.
Four 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.
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.