Dramatic Changes in Temporary Protected Status

January 7, 2018 11:55 am
by David Jakeman

After Hurricane Mitch plowed through Central America in 1998, the US offered shelter to Honduran and Nicaraguan nationals then in the US by giving their countries Temporary Protected Status. The US followed similar protocol following powerful earthquakes in both El Salvador in 2001 and Haiti in 2010. Since then, the US government has continued to renew TPS for all four of those countries, but these long-standing policies are changing under the Trump administration.

TPS Is Ending for Nicaragua and Haiti

In November 2017, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced that Nicaragua and Haiti would no longer have their TPS renewed. Nicaraguans covered by TPS have until January 5, 2019 until their status expires. Later in November, Secretary Duke announced that Haiti’s TPS was also ending, with a delayed deadline of 18 months, or July 22, 2019. The delayed deadline for both countries is to allow nationals to arrange travel documents to return to their home country or to find an alternative, legal status that would allow them to remain in the country. About 2500 Salvadorans and 50,000 Haitians will be affected by these announcements.

Other Countries Under TPS Scrutiny

Secretary Duke extended TPS to Honduran nationals for 6 more months, as has been routine for the past two decades. She did say that based on the information the government currently has, Honduras’ TPS would likely not be extended any further. A delayed deadline of a year would be given to Hondurans to get their affairs in order, just has been extended to Nicaraguans and Haitians. There are about 57,000 Hondurans currently with TPS.

The number of Salvadorans with TPS status dwarfs the other groups represented. Almost 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS are living in the United States. Rescinding their status could have serious repercussions for both the US and Salvadoran economies, given that such a large number of TPS holders are employed. No statement has been issued about El Salvador, but its government has lobbied heavily for continued TPS.

Earlier in the year, DHS ended TPS for nationals of Sudan, to end November 2, 2018. These dramatic changes in policy reflect the Trump administration’s belief that the program has morphed beyond its original intent. They emphasize that TPS means temporary and that the program was never intended to extend for decades. However, opponents of the changes argue that conditions in affected countries are still difficult and people shouldn’t be forced to return. Secretary Duke acknowledged this tension by calling on Congress to enact a permanent solution for TPS holders. However, given the current political wrangling over DACA beneficiaries, finding a Congressional solution for TPS holders looks difficult.

Although TPS is a dead-end status, recent court decisions in the Sixth and Ninth Circuits may provide a path forward for people living in affected areas of the United States. The Sixth Circuit includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The Ninth Circuit includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Immigration lawyers are a good resource for understanding what options might be available for TPS holders to stay in the US.

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