Washington, DC – October 23, 2017: Immigration reform protesters demonstrate outside the White House calling for no further deportations and a means to gain legal residency and a path to citizenship. (Shutterstock)
By Linda Nwoke
In December 2019, Trump’s administration decided to slightly modify an immigration condition which they described as a ‘mere clarification ‘that turned into a nightmarish reality for certain immigrants. The clarification sought to eliminate protections for several thousand immigrants covered by the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) beneficiaries.
What is TPS?
The United State Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) describes the TPS as a temporary benefit that does not result in a lawful permanent resident status. Also, it does not grant the applicant any other immigration status.
However, individuals who are eligible and become beneficiaries are qualified to work in the United States and granted authorization to travel. Most importantly, they cannot be removed from the United States.
Thus, once an individual has a TPS, they cannot be detained by the Department for Home Services (DHS) based on their immigration status. Those with a TPS can apply for nonimmigrant status, file for a status adjustment based on an immigrant petition, and use it for any other eligible immigration benefit or protection.
For a given period, TPS is granted to eligible nationals of certain countries or, in some cases, parts of countries who already reside in the United States. The USCIS can also give TPS to qualified individuals without nationality who last lived in the designated country.
The Secretary of Homeland Security & TPS
The Secretary of Homeland Security can approve the qualification of a foreign country for TPS based on certain conditions in the applicant’s country of origin.
These conditions can briefly prevent the individual from returning safely or adequately to their home country.
The varying conditions include – the case of an epidemic or environmental disaster, ongoing armed conflict, or any other temporary or extraordinary situation.
There are over twelve countries designated for TPS in the United States – El Salvador, Burma, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, and Venezuela, among others.
In response to the previous administration’s discriminatory efforts to quell the program and deport its beneficiaries, in August 2020, a lawsuit was filed by a combination of individual plaintiffs and Pro-Immigration groups – Democracy Forward Foundation, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Montagut & Sobral P.C., the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) and Seven Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries in protest of the new changes.
They sued the Trump administration for unlawfully denying several TPS beneficiaries the chance to take measures to change their immigration status and become permanent residents.
The groups’ lawsuit alleged the change violated specific Acts such as the Administrative Procedure Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act and was motivated by an anti-immigrant and racial bias characteristic of Trump’s administration.
Secondly, the lawsuit claimed it was an unlawful authorization by an illegally appointed Director, Ken Cuccinelli. The acting Director’s appointment was deemed illegal by a federal court in March 2020 in response to another separate lawsuit filed by Democracy Forward Foundation, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, CLINIC, and RAICES.
Victory for Immigrants
In a recent development, the CARECEN v. Cuccinelli lawsuit was settled on March 21st. Under the leadership of USCIS Director Ur Jaddou, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has agreed to restore a path to permanent residency for over tens of thousands of beneficiaries under Temporary Protected Status. Based on the agreement, the victims of the policy will now be able to have their removal order cases reopened and dismissed. Also, eligible beneficiaries will be able to apply for a ‘status adjustment’ that will enable them to become permanent residents. Overall, the danger of future deportation no longer exists even if TPS protections are revoked. It is a significant concern for many who have lived in the country for a long time and established a new life in various communities.
The Reaction of Key Players
In a press release, the Executive Director of CARECEN expressed satisfaction with the lawsuit’s outcome. According to Abel Nuñez, “This victory will change the lives of those individuals impacted.” He also took pride in CARECEN’s continued efforts to defend and support the integration of immigrants into new homes within their communities in the country.
He explained that his organization (CARECEN) would work with eligible TPS members that qualify under the settlement. And will keep fighting for the Temporary Protection Status beneficiaries who have lived for over 20 years, have complied with everything asked, and can apply for legal permanent residence.
Anna Gallagher is the Executive Director of one of the Pro Immigration groups, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., (CLINIC). She expressed satisfaction with the outcome, especially overcoming a policy that created family disunity. She emphasized celebrating a settlement that will prevent family separation and provide pathways to citizenship for thousands of TPS beneficiaries, similar to the views of other stakeholders.
In line with the sentiments of other leaders, she took pride in the role her organization played, “We are proud to have stood among those who fought against this policy. We celebrate alongside our immigrant brothers and sisters whose lives will now be profoundly changed.”
Some of the individual plaintiffs’ representatives shared their views: “They are proud to have been part of a team that fought for the change. Both their clients (six clients) and thousands of TPS beneficiaries can reopen and dismiss their deportation cases and proceed with their permanent residence applications to remain in the U.S. with their families and turn their dreams into reality.”
The settlement of this lawsuit under President Joe Biden’s administration has restored some peace of mind among the beneficiaries. At the same time, the TPS remains a powerful, humanitarian, and necessary way to protect vulnerable people from unforeseen circumstances that are often beyond the recipient’s control. It’s a means that helps immigrants start all over in the long journey of rebuilding a life from the shattered pieces they were lucky to have left.
To find out if you qualify for this new change in TPS, call 855-768-8845 or visit www.askthelawyer.us to schedule an appointment. The lawyer you hire does make a difference!