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Trump Administration and Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

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Trump’s Controversial and Continuous Fight to End TPS

The United States has allowed the entry of more than 3.2 million refugees since 1975. These refugees serve as a living reminder that immigrants are essential to the contribution of economic prosperity, strong diplomatic ties and duration, and security. In 1990, when Congress passed the Immigration Act, it introduced a new program called the Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The Temporary Protected Status is designated to provide temporary immigration status to nationals of specifically designated countries experiencing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions that place their people at risk if deported there or that would compromise the foreign government’s ability to absorb the return of its citizens. Since its introduction, the Temporary Protected Status has been effective in the most important of ways. It has saved lives of thousands of foreign citizens, an interest to which the current administration seems to not have. If not for the Temporary Protected Status, many Salvadorans, Haitians, Hondurans, Syrians, Yemenis, Sudanese, and many others from every other designated country would have lost their lives.

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The Temporary Protected Status provides a work permit and delay of deportation to foreign citizens from those countries who are in the United States at the time the U.S. government makes the selection. It is also given to people who managed to successfully escape the problems in their country and get to the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security has the exclusive authorization to decide when a country deserves a TPS selection. The Secretary must consult with other government agencies prior to deciding to select a country, or part of a country, for TPS. Although these other agencies are not specified in the act, those consulted usually are the Department of State, the National Security Council, and occasionally the Department of Justice. The Secretary’s decision to select a country for the program is not subject to judicial review, according to immigration law. In 2017, the Trump’s administration announced that they were going to bring the legal, but temporary status of the immigrants from these countries to an end. Immediately, many federal judges provisionally blocked the plan as it was deemed there was no motivations other than the administration being racially bias and discriminatory against these immigrants. As a result of the Trump’s administration’s stance against the designated countries, there are clear indications of the intention to terminate the TPS for these immigrants is racially prejudice and discriminatory.

An estimated 435,000 people from 10 countries currently hold TPS status based on an article written by Madison Park through CNN. As its name implies, Temporary Protected Status does not grant the path to have permanent legal status in the United States. Beneficiaries do not receive lawful permanent residence, nor are they qualified, based only on their temporary status, to apply for permanent residence or for U.S. citizenship. To be precise, Temporary Protected Status recipients are granted a temporary immigration status that protects them from getting deported and a separate application provides them a permit to work in the United States for a limited period of time. Since its introduction there has been 22 designated countries, with 10 of those with valid TPS. Last year, the Trump administration had announced its plan to terminate the program for six of the ten countries despite some of the countries’ requests to extend TPS for their citizens. Among these six is El Salvador, one of the first countries that have been designated for TPS. Based on an article by Miriam Jordan from the New York Times, The Trump Administration wants to terminate the temporary status for El Salvador citizens simply because the 2001 earthquake, which was what the designation for TPS was based on, happened quite a while ago and it’s time for more than 200,000 Salvadorians to leave the country. To go even further with this, on a research article on Pew Research Center, authors D’Vera Cohn and Jeffrey Passel stated that the Haitian and Salvadorian governments have asked the Trump Administration to extend TPS for their citizens as the countries are currently going through many difficult situations. In Haiti’s case, recent hurricanes have devasted the country and the US Department of State have put a level 3 travel warning on Haiti as of November 29, 2018 due to crime and civil unrest. As of July 13, 2018, the US Department of State also put a level 3 travel warning on El Salvador as well due to ongoing crimes. In other words, if one plans on traveling to these countries, they will be unsafe. But for some reason, these warnings do not seem to apply to those under the Temporary Protected Status.

Temporary Protected Status recipients are essential to the American society and economy. They have lived in the United States for nearly two decades and are employed at high rates. The contributions made by the beneficiaries, in addition will only continue to grow in the future, as they are nurturing families that include U.S.-born children. According to a statistical research made by Center for Migration Studies, many Honduran, Haitian and El Salvadoran recipients have lived in the United States for nearly two decades. In the same research, they also found that more than 30% of households with Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS recipients have mortgages. This measure is suggestive of Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries’ active pursuit of homeownership, which leads to major contributions to their local economies in the form of sales and property taxes. Temporary Protected Status recipients are also an important part of the United States labor force. The Center for Migration Studies reports that 81 to 88 percent of TPS beneficiaries are working, mainly in construction, restaurants, landscaping services, child day care services, self-employment, grocery stores, and many more. They are part of the working class and a crucial part of many local communities. Despite their economic contributions, Congress has not taken any measure to extend TPS or to provide recipients the opportunity to become permanent residents and even citizens. Terminating Temporary Protected Status without giving the recipients a path to permanent legal status, which also terminates the ability of those recipients to work legally, would most likely increase the risk of foreclosure for families with Temporary Protected Status members. Thus, terminating TPS for these countries without giving them a path to legal permanent residence, would have negative economic consequences for many local communities which will in turn affect the economy of many counties and perhaps cities. In the same report by the Center for Migration Studies, Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS recipients have a total of 273,200 U.S.-born citizen children. If TPS is brought to an end for these countries, these U.S.-citizen children would also face serious risks. They would either face separation from their parents or be forced to relocate to a country foreign to them. The Trump Administration have made it clear that they don’t mind separating families which is evident with what’s happening near the US-Mexican borders.

Since he came in office, President Trump has issued several executive orders in his first year aimed at increasing immigration enforcement and border security. One of them was intended to end two Obama-era programs known as DACA and DAPA. the first protected undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from being deported and the latter parents who have US-born citizen children, though these programs’ statuses remain valid due to pending legal proceedings. In late 2017, the Trump administration terminated the Temporary Protected Status designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti. In January 2018, they terminated TPS for El Salvador, where more than 200,000 or half of all Temporary Protected Status recipients are from, and in April, it ended TPS for Nepal and Honduras. The administration stated that these countries had adequately recovered from their catastrophes for migrants under the temporary status to safely return, giving them between six and eighteen months to stay in the United States and plan for their return to their home countries. Despite the Trump administration’s desire to terminate the program for these countries, many federal judges have temporarily blocked it from terminating TPS for beneficiaries from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal and Sudan. one of the most recent federal judges to temporarily block this plan, and according to Maegan Flynn’s article on the Washington Post, Judge Chen “cited statements by President Trump denigrating Mexicans, Central Americans, Muslim-majority and Arab countries, Haitians and Africans, including his January remark about “people from sh*thole countries” and his June 2017 comments stating that 15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti all have AIDS.” This article addresses one of the many news stories of federal judges that temporarily block the Trump’s administration’s plan to end the TPS for the currently selected countries’ citizens due to having no reasons other than the suspected discriminatory way of thinking when it comes to non-White and non-Western European countries. During the midterm elections last month, Trump and his team shared a video on Twitter which portrayed immigrants from Central America as criminals, but in reality, most of those people are seeking Asylum to escape ongoing crimes in their countries, and a large number of them are from countries that are currently on the Temporary Protected Status.

Throughout history, the United States has always had a negative stance when it comes to immigration. Especially when it comes to the migration of people of color. From history, we learned that the country has never been the friendliest when it comes to opening their doors for immigrants of minority-majority countries. When the Democrats and the Republicans worked together on creating the Temporary Protected Status in 1989, their main purpose was to help nationals of other countries to get back on their feet and have a safe place to raise their children. TPS has been presented as a temporary status, but ever since its introduction the line between temporary and semi-permanent has been blurred. Many of the designated countries have had the status for more than two decades, which means there should have been a way for them to apply for lawful permanent residence without the need to terminate their TPS and risk their lives by going back to a country they escaped and apply for reentry through green card which is not guaranteed.

Conditions in the designated countries, whether terminated, at risk of being terminated, extended, are still bad or have worsen. Yemen is struggling through one of the worst inhuman cruelty. According to the New York Times, an estimated 85,000 children have lost their lives due to famine since the war began in 2015. Syria, according to Oxfam America, is still unable to resolve the ongoing civil war that has killed an estimated 400,000 people and forced more than ten million to flee under severe situations. Immigrants from countries with TPS designations that are set to expire have a handful of options to legally remain in the United States. They may not apply for permanent residency based exclusively on TPS, but those whose spouses or adult children are citizens or legal residents can seek legal status to remain in the United States. Congress could also pass a legislation to help prevent the deportation of Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries. According to Miami Herald, last year, lawmakers from both parties have approved and supported bills that would offer TPS holders, a path to permanent residency, but none of the propositions have so far been able to amass sufficient support. Congress has introduced many, but different proposals for the Temporary Protected Status. According to Jill H. Wilson, from Congressional Research Service, some proposed bills would prolong and increase the designation for TPS for certain countries or provide adjustment to Lawful Permanent Resident status for Temporary Protected Status recipients who have been living in the United States for several years. Others proposed bills that intend to limit TPS by transferring authority from DHS to Congress to appoint foreign states for security purposes. But According to Mike Coffman, TPS recipients have all paid their processing fees, gone through background and criminal check and have been granted work permits from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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For the Trump administration, the answer to this debate is to end TPS for citizens from the Caribbean, Central American, Asian, and North African countries that have suffered natural disasters or ongoing war and conflicts. In May of this year, Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen determined that the effects of natural disasters or political violence had reduced enough in six of the ten countries to authorize the termination of the Temporary Protected Status for their citizens. USCIS reported that Nicaraguans and Haitians have been ordered to leave by January and July 2019 respectively or face deportation. In January of this year, the Trump administration terminated the protection for Salvadorans, notifying them to depart by September 2019.

Even then, some recipients are facing deportation even sooner. Temporary Protected Status was initially set to end November 2, 2018 for immigrants from Sudan, but according to USCIS, a court ruling questioned whether abruptly terminating Temporary Protected Status displays racial bias on the part of the Trump administration, ordered the program to remain in place for Temporary Protected Status recipients of Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua until April 2, 2019. However, once that extension expires, the Trump administration will have the authority to terminate the Temporary Protected Status based on the subjective guidance of the State Department.

Unexpectedly terminating TPS will damage the economies of Central American countries, Haiti, and others in which their economies partially depend on remittances. By doing so, it would trigger further migration out of these countries and in the United States. Those on the Temporary Protected Status will most likely stay, even risking being undocumented. If the intent is to reduce illegal immigration to the United States, Congress should propose a bill that would allow TPS recipients a pathway to legally remain in the country permanently. As Democrats prepare to take control of the House, many hope they will incorporate plans to issue permanent protection for Temporary Protected Status recipients on their agenda. Democrats would show that they really stand behind immigrants and are willing to stand against the Trump’s administration’s anti-immigration’s agenda by proposing such a bill. A pathway to legal permanent residence for TPS recipients will also create an opportunity for those immigrants to advocate for their rights as well as for other working families and prove to the government and the people how immigrant workers contribute not only to the American economy, but also are essential to American society.

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