Members of Haitian women for Haitian refugees organization rally for restoration of TPS and permanent status for refugees from Haiti on Ocean Avenue. – New York, NY – November 8, 2020 (Shutterstock)
By Jennifer Ibanez Whitlock, Immigration Impact
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an important announcement on December 9 about the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) designations for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. TPS recipients from these six countries received additional nine-month permission to remain and work in the United States.
There has also been increased attention paid to Central America after two hurricanes caused extensive damage to the region in November. This and other factors support designating TPS for Guatemala and extending TPS to eligible nationals from Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua already in the U.S.
Congress created TPS to protect people from being forcibly returned to a country that is facing an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions that would make returning life-threatening.
The nine-month extension for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan is a result of pending litigation in three separate cases: Ramos v. Wolf, Bhattarai v. Wolf, and Saget v. Trump.
DHS was forced to automatically extend TPS for beneficiaries from the six countries named in the litigation. Having TPS is vital—it allows people to work legally, receive driver’s licenses, and apply for social security numbers. It allows people to be self-sustaining in the U.S.
Originally, TPS for the six countries named in the Bhattarai case was set to expire on January 4, 2021. The extension impacts the lives of approximately 300,000 TPS holders nationwide.
Many are long-term residents who have lived in the U.S. for close to 20 years. They are part of the country’s “essential critical infrastructure” workforce in occupations such as healthcare, food, and transportation.
These TPS designations—often a matter of life and death—need to be thoughtfully considered.
Many TPS holders are parents to U.S. citizen children. These U.S. citizen children would either be forced to immigrate to their parent’s birth countries or remain without them in this country. TPS holders also own homes and businesses that could potentially be abandoned and shuttered.
The TPS community and their families are not a problem for the U.S. to solve. Rather, it is an opportunity to move forward together. This is why a permanent solution to the legal limbo TPS holders face is crucial.
Congress can provide a legislative fix too by passing a bill allowing eligible people to apply for permanent status. In the meantime, there has also been litigation pushing for TPS holders to be able to become lawful permanent residents if they hold close family relationships or certain employment in the U.S.
Regardless of the outcome of these lawsuits, TPS is a humanitarian and legal solution that Congress deemed good public policy. There is a clear process, precedent, and guidelines for the Biden administration to follow.
The incoming administration should not shrink away from adding new countries or opening eligibility to nationals from currently designated countries.
In November, category 4 hurricanes Eta and Iota made landfall in Central America within two weeks of each other. It was deemed “unprecedented” for two category 4 hurricanes to make landfall so close together.
This destruction came on top of already “significantly compromised public health resources” in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The Biden administration should consider extending protection to these countries.
In a system that often does not have a way for people to receive lawful immigration status, TPS is a beacon of hope and safety. People with TPS and their families have been in legal limbo long enough—it is time to give them the opportunity to breathe a little easier by supporting a pathway to permanent legal status.