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What is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?

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Originally published August 9, 2018. Updated March 4, 2022

What is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?  

Since 1990, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been used to give protections for immigrants fleeing natural disasters, political instability, and humanitarian crises. In addition to granting lifesaving protections to refugees seeking asylum from dangerous conditions, TPS is a beneficial tool that can help create stability and economic recovery through remittances. 

Every administration has the legal authority to immediately re-designate TPS, and given the devastation from climate disasters, widespread violence, economic instability, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden Administration absolutely must use it to expand TPS to other countries. 

Watch our video: 

TPS Under Trump

Under the Trump Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made a habit of terminating or failing to re-designate each country whose TPS renewal deadline was approaching. After a TPS designation expires, the status of its recipients returns to the status they had before the TPS distinction was made, making them vulnerable to deportation. Under Trump, DHS tried to end TPS designations even as experts at the State Department warned that ending the program could hurt national security and economic interests, increase undocumented immigration, and bolster the MS-13 gangs that Trump constantly talked about. By the end of the Trump administration, TPS relief was finally extended until October 2021 for those from Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Sudan due to litigation against the Trump administration in the Ramos v. Nielsen and Bhattarai v. Nielsen case

TPS Under Biden

In September 2021, the Biden Administration announced a 15 month automatic extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for all current beneficiaries from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, Nepal and Sudan. This extension comes after months of litigation, organizing, and advocacy by TPS holders and allied groups, but it marks a failure on the part of the Biden Administration to re-designate these six countries – and designate others – for TPS and expand the protection to more long term immigrants who need it.

According to the Congressional Research Service, as of March 2021, there are approximately 320,000 foreign nationals with TPS from 10 countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 

Biden also added Burma and Venezuela to the list of TPS-designated countries.

What is Ramos v. Nielsen? What is Bhattarai v. Nielsen? 

When the Trump administration attempted to end TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, nine TPS recipients and five children of TPS-holders sued the government. According to the National TPS Alliance, the plaintiffs cited evidence that the decision to terminate TPS was motivated by racism in violation of the constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act since it set a new standard for TPS decisions without formal explanations. In September 2020, the court ordered a preliminary injunction, or preservation of the status quo, until the lawsuit continues. A year later, Biden extended TPS while the case is currently still on-going in the appellate court. 

Almost shortly after Trump attempted to end TPS for the foreign nationals represented in the Ramos v. Nielsen case, he attempted to terminate TPS for Honduras and Nepal. Six TPS-holders and two children of TPS-holders sued the government once again under a new lawsuit Bhattarai v. Nielsen. As is the case in the Ramos v. Nielsen case, an injunction remains in place, allowing for the extension of TPS for Honduran and Nepali nationals. 

 

According to the National TPS alliance, both lawsuits state four reasons why terminating TPS is illegal: 

  1. School-age U.S. citizen children have the fundamental constitutional right to live in the U.S. But they also have the fundamental right to live with—and be raised by—their parents. 
  2. The government illegally changed the rules for how DHS determines whether to extend or terminate TPS, without any formal announcement and without going through required procedures.
  3. DHS’s decisions to terminate TPS were based on intentional discrimination in violation of the Constitution.
  4. DHS violated TPS holders due process rights when it applied new, unexplained standard to TPS decisions and made TPS decisions based on discriminatory reasons.

 

Current TPS population  

Country Most recent decision Required Arrival date Individuals w/ TPS Expiration date
Burma  New designation March 11, 2021 Roughly 1,600 eligible November 25, 2022
El Salvador Extension February 13, 2001 198,420 December 31, 2022 
Haiti (2010) Extension January 12, 2011 40,865 December 31, 2022 
Haiti (2021) Re-designation May 12, 2021 N/A February 3, 2023
Honduras** Extension December 30, 1998 60,350 December 31, 2022 
Nepal**  Extension June 24, 2015 10,160 December 31, 2022 
Nicaragua* Extension December 30, 1998 3,200 December 31, 2022 
Somalia  Extension & Re-designation July 19, 2021 385 March 17, 2023
South Sudan Extended  January 25, 2016  80 May 2, 2022 
South Sudan*** New Designation March, 1, 2022 November 3, 2023
Sudan* Extension January 9, 2013 550 December 31, 2022 
Sudan*** New Designation March, 1, 2022 November 3, 2023
Syria Extension & Re-designation March 19, 2021 3,945 September 30, 2022 
Ukraine New Designation March 1, 2022 Roughly 96,000 eligible November 3, 2023
Venezuela New designation March 8, 2021 Roughly 323,000 eligible  September 9, 2022 
Yemen Extension & Re-designation July 5, 2021 1,385 March 3, 2023

Source: Congressional Research Service: Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure 

*Extended due to Ramos v. Nielsen

** Extended due to Bhattarai v. Nielsen

*** New Designation for Sudan and South Sudan

What is the economic impact of TPS holders?

According to the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), TPS holders hold essential jobs in healthcare, the food industry, transportation, construction, and other essential occupations: 

  • An estimated 11,600 healthcare workers today have TPS, including 8,100 home health and personal care aides, nursing assistants, orderlies, and psychiatric aides; 1,900 health technologists and technicians; 1,300 other healthcare support. 
  • 76,100 TPS recipients work in food-related industries, including 3,900 TPS holders working in farming and agriculture, 11,700 in food manufacturing, 4,700 in food-related wholesale trade, 11,600 TPS holders in food warehousing, transportation, and delivery. Not to mention the 8,400 TPS holders that work in grocery stories and the 28,800 that work in restaurants and food establishments. 
  • Between Salvadorans and Hondurans TPS holders alone, there are roughly 50,600 construction workers. 
  • An estimated 15,800 TPS holders work in landscaping services. 
  • 6,900 TPS holders work in transportation and warehousing services, 4,100 work in automotive repair and maintenance, 12,700 work in manufacturing plants, 3,300 work in waste management. 
  • 10,000 TPS holders work in child care services.  

What would happen if TPS holders lost their employment? 

According to Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), ending TPS just for Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS holders alone would: 

  • Cost taxpayers $3.1 billion dollars if individuals are deported
  • Reduce Social Security and Medicare by $6.9 billion over a decade 
  • Lead to a loss of $45.2 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over a decade
  • Result in $967 million of turnover costs
  • Risk 61,00 households walking away from their mortgages

And since most TPS holders reside in major metropolitan areas in Florida, New York, California, Maryland, and Virginia, the impact of removing TPS from these individuals and leaving them without employment would be catastrophic not only for impacted individuals, but for complete communities that rely on the labor of TPS recipients.  

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

“TPS is the biggest immigration, economic and foreign policy issue you’ve never heard of. The forced removal of hundreds of thousands of hardworking, home-owning families could unleash devastating consequences on employers, the housing market and taxpayers. Spending billions of taxpayer dollars on mass deportations would be hugely disruptive to our economy. Ending TPS could result in compelling 60,000 homeowners to walk away from their mortgages. The disruption to the healthcare, hospitality, food services, construction and childcare industries would be extensive. Add to this the impact on fragile home countries if hundreds of thousands are forced to return, and we are facing a series of imminent decisions that will be of huge consequence. The best solution? DHS should extend TPS for those currently holding TPS. This will keep our economy strong, serve our foreign policy interests and recognize the contributions of deeply-rooted immigrants.”

Who can make a TPS designation? Why?

Under the law, the secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a foreign country for TPS in three scenarios:

  • Ongoing armed conflict (such as a civil war)
  • An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic; or
  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent nationals from the country from safely returning home. 

How long is a TPS designation? 

The country’s designation can last as little as six months (the minimum) or as long as 18 months, the maximum. 

What does it mean to designate, re-designate, or extend TPS? 

When DHS “designates” a country, the DHS Secretary acknowledges that a specific foreign country is too dangerous or unstable for nationals of that country who are already in the U.S. to return to. They must provide a rationale for why foreign nationals would face unsafe conditions that would put them at risk of violence, disease, or death if they returned. This designation is typically set for 18 months before the status is reviewed.

Upon review, DHS can choose to “re-designate” TPS for foreign nationals of a particular country, which extends TPS to a new set of immigrants who have fled the destabilized country. For example, if a country is torn by a civil war and that war is still ongoing 18 months after the original designation, DHS may re-designate the country in order to extend the protection to those immigrants who arrived after the original designation. 

DHS may also “extend” the designation. This means that immigrants who already had TPS receive an extension on their status but no new immigrants from said country are granted TPS

To summarize: 

  • Designate: DHS Secretary acknowledges that a specific foreign country is too dangerous or unstable for nationals of that country who are already in the U.S. to return to (must be in the U.S. before a specific date) 
  • Re-designate: new immigrants are granted TPS for the same reason that previous TPS holders from that same country were granted TPS. 
  • Extend: no new immigrants granted TPS; those who already have it receive an extension of status. 

What happens when TPS ends for a designated group? Why does that happen?

Sixty days prior to the end of an initial designation or re-designation period, the Secretary of Homeland Security must review the conditions of the foreign country to determine if the unsafe conditions still exist. If conditions continue, the secretary may extend TPS for another six, twelve, or 18-month period. There is no limit on the number of times the secretary may extend TPS, so long as the conditions continue.

Can a TPS designee gain employment?

Yes. If TPS is granted, the applicant receives protection from deportation and work authorization to support themselves while they remain in the U.S.

Can a TPS designee get citizenship?

No. By statute, TPS does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status or citizenship.

Why were these countries designated?

Burma

Burma was designated for TPS on May 25, 2021 because the overall human rights violation deteriorated after a coup by the Burmese military. In their designation, USCIS noted the increasing oppression and violence by the military towards any resistance, including arbitrary detentions and deadly force against unarmed individuals, and overall brutal violence against people, including children. 

Currently, the registration is open until November 25, 2022 for all Burmese nationals who have been physically present in the U.S. since May 25, 2021. For more information on how to apply, you can visit this USCIS website and click “Where to File.”

El Salvador

El Salvador was designated for TPS under President George W. Bush. El Salvador was struck by a catastrophic 7.6 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 13, 2001, and further devastated by two powerful aftershocks a month later. The series of earthquakes resulted in 1,100 deaths and left more than 2,500 people missing. Nearly 8,000 suffered injuries. Seventeen percent of El Salvador’s population (1.3 million people) were displaced by the earthquakes and resulting landslides. The earthquakes caused more than $2.8 billion in damages, including the destruction or damage of 220,000 homes, 1,696 schools, and 856 other public buildings.

Since 2001, the country has remained unstable for the safe return of Salvadoran TPS holders. In the 2016 to 2018 extension of TPS for El Salvador, the U.S. government cited the dire conditions brought about by numerous subsequent natural disasters, including hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, volcanic seismic activity, prolonged drought that caused widespread food and water insecurity, the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, lack of housing and electricity, and gang-related insecurity. Salvadoran TPS-holders will keep their status due to the ongoing Ramos v. Nielsen litigation. 

Haiti

Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, the most violent earthquake in the country in 200 years. Much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince was destroyed. One and a half million people were displaced. Within days, DHS granted TPS to eligible Haitians who had been in the U.S. on or before the date of the earthquake. In 2011, eligibility was extended to people who came to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons in the year following the earthquake.

Haiti and Haitian nationals continue to face chaos amid political unrest after the assassination of Haiti’s President , violence, corruption, widespread poverty, and food insecurity in a country still reeling from a devastating earthquake in 2010 and other disasters. TPS for Haiti continues for those that were designated TPS in 2011, and was re-designated on May 22, 2021 for new applicants, the former extension thanks to the ongoing Ramos v. Nielsen litigation. 

Honduras

Honduras was designated for TPS under President Bill Clinton on Jan. 5, 1999. In Oct. 1998, Honduras was devastated by Hurricane Mitch, one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in modern history, with 150 mph winds and days of torrential rain. One-fifth of the Honduran population, 1.4 million people, were left homeless. More than 5,600 people were killed. Two-thirds of Honduras’ roads and bridges were destroyed, as well as banana, coffee and other agricultural plantations vital to the Honduran economy. The United Nations reported that Hurricane Mitch set Honduras back 20 years, both socially and economically. 

Since then, Honduras has faced yet 2 other hurricanes in 2020: Eta and Iota. According to Amnesty International, these two hurricanes affected 4 million people across the nation and raised poverty levels by 10%. Homes were flooded and destroyed, livestock died, and agriculture was devastated. With this recent disaster, coupled with state repression, gang violence, economic insecurities, environmental damage, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise the impact that extending and re-designating TPS would have on Honduran nationals. Honduran nationals were granted TPS extension due to the ongoing Bhattarai v. Nielsen litigation. 

Nepal

On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake which affected more than 8 million people — roughly 25 to 33 percent of Nepal’s population. Approximately 9,000 people died and 22,000 were injured. More than 755,000 homes were significantly damaged or destroyed.

According to CLINIC, there continues to be housing issues and a destroyed infrastructure that restricts access to basic needs and services, health care and education and food and water. Civil unrest and a 2017 flood have slowed the recovery of this country, making the continual extension of TPS crucial to Nepali nationals in the U.S. Nepal TPS-holders will keep their status due to litigation in the Bhattarai v. Nielsen order.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua TPS was initially designated following devastating Hurricane Mitch that caused severe flooding in October 1998. The storm killed 3,045 people and 885 were reported missing, affecting nearly 868,000 people, destroying entire villages, and causing extensive damages to the transportation network, housing, medical and educational facilities, water supply and sanitation facilities, and the agricultural sector. 

Nicaragua was set to be terminated during the Trump administration, as DHS reviewed the conditions in Nicaragua and determined that recovery efforts post-Hurricane Mitch have been completed and the country could adequately handle the return of Nicaraguan nationals. In 2020, Nicaraguan TPS-holders extended their status due to the ongoing Ramos litigation. 

Somalia

Somalia was designated in September of 1991 due to conflict in the region. After a series of continuing re-designations, Somalia was designated under new condition in 2012 due to a fragile and volatile security situation

According to the latest TPS extension request, the Al-Shabaab continues to present significant risks, and natural disasters have caused severe drought and flooding, as well as food insecurity and internal displacement, not to mention an outbreak of cholera alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a humanitarian crisis that requires the extension of TPS for Somali individuals. Because of these reasons, TPS was both extended and re-designated for Somali nationals in the U.S. as of July 19, 2021. 

South Sudan

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation — but based on the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary conditions within South Sudan, it was designated for TPS in October 2011.

South Sudan is engulfed in an ongoing civil war marked by brutal violence against civilians, egregious human rights violations and abuses, and a humanitarian disaster seen on a devastating scale across the country. As of June 2019, 3.7 million people have fled their homes, and widespread starvation and ongoing violence has swept over the new nation. As of November 2, 2020, TPS for South Sudan nationals was extended 18 months and ends May 2, 2022. On March 2, 2022, DHS announced a new designation for TPS due to the internal displacement of millions of South Sudanese nationals. To be eligible for the new designation, South Sudanese nationals must have resided in the U.S. since March 1, 2022. 

Sudan

Sudan was designated for TPS in October 1997 because of ongoing armed conflict in the region. The violence and displacement of the Sudanese, along with environmental and economic factors, have created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world

Till this day, there is an unstable relationship between the military and civilian groups after the President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019. In 2020, Sudanese nationals were granted TPS extension due to the ongoing Ramos litigation. On March 2, 2022, DHS announced a new designation for TPS due to political instability and unrest. To be eligible for the new designation, Sudanese nationals must have resided in the U.S. since March 1, 2022. 

Syria

After the Arab Spring devolved into a full civil war following the brutal repression of demonstrators in 2011-2012, the crisis there continues as of this writing . According to the U.N., 400,000 Syrians have been killed and more than half of the country’s 20 million, pre-war population has been displaced. Syria was designated for TPS on March 29, 2012 under President Obama due to the Syrian military’s violent suppression of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Syria continues to face ongoing armed conflict, and the most recent DHS notice extending and re-designating TPS to Syria noted the deliberate targeting of civilians, use of chemical weapons, irregular warfare tactics, and forced conscription and use of child soldiers. There are increasingly more Syrian refugees and displaced people, food insecurity, and limited access to water and medical care. To take away TPS would be irresponsible.   

Ukraine

The current Russian-Ukrainian crisis has led many Ukrainians to leave their country in search of safety. Many immigration advocates called for the Biden Administration to grant TPS to Ukrainians already living in the U.S., as it would prevent them from deportation to a country that is experiencing a humanitarian crisis. 

On March 3, 2022, DHS designated Ukraine for TPS. Secretary Mayorkas said, “Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has resulted in an ongoing war, senseless violence, and Ukrainians forced to seek refuge in other countries.” According to the American Community Survey, there are currently 355,000 Ukrainians living in the U.S., and the Center for American Progress estimates that as many as 96,000 non-U.S. citizen Ukrainians, including 27,000 undocumented Ukrainians, will benefit from TPS. 

Venezuela

Venezuela was designated for TPS on March 9, 2021. According to USCIS, the designation is because Venezuela is currently facing a severe humanitarian emergency due to an economic crisis which has deepened poverty, led to unemployment, shortages of food and medicine, and other basic needs like water, electricity, fuel. There are continual human rights abuses, heightened crime and violence, corruption, and increased human migration because of these factors. 

Currently, the registration is open until September 9, 2022 for all Venezuelan nationals who have been physically present in the U.S. since March 9, 2021. For more information on how to apply, you can visit this USCIS website and click “Where to File.”

Yemen

In 2015, longstanding conflict broke out into a full civil war in Yemen. The war has killed over 10,000, displaced over 3 million people, and created a humanitarian crisis. TPS for Yemen was designated on September 3, 2015 under President Obama due to the ongoing armed conflict by the Houthis who forced Yemeni government leaders into exile in Saudi Arabia. 

DHS reviewed the conditions in Yemen and determined it’s 18-month extension AND re-designation due to ongoing armed conflict. According to CLINIC, the re-designation of Yemen allows additional individuals who have been continuously residing in the United States since July 5, 2021, and continuously physically present in the United States since Sept. 4, 2021, to obtain TPS, if otherwise eligible. The registration period for the re-designation will remain open from July 9, 2021, through March 3, 2023.

The Future of TPS 

We can and should expect more from the Biden Administration. In choosing to extend rather than re-designate TPS for the Central American countries on the list, for example, President Biden is missing an opportunity to protect thousands of immigrants who are already in the U.S., many of whom have been part of our communities for more than a decade. Damage from natural disasters and dangerous and unstable conditions in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua make those countries unsafe for immigrants to return. Due to the current dire and extraordinary circumstances, Guatemala has asked the United States to designate Guatemalans for TPS as the government is not in a position to accept returning deportees. Honduras has requested a re-designation for the same reasons. There have also been many efforts to designate Cameroon for TPS due to violence by armed conflict between the Cameroonian government and Boko

Haram and the crisis in the Anglophone regions pose significant threats to the safety and well-being of Cameroonian nationals.

There is a very strong case to be made by other countries across the globe for TPS and the Biden Administration should be expansive in its consideration of these cases. The President should use executive action more aggressively to expand TPS and protect immigrants who are already living, working, and paying taxes here. Their work and entrepreneurship directly benefit our economy and the money immigrants send to families through remittances helps stabilize regions of the world facing civil strife, climate change-driven disasters and the lingering impact of the global pandemic.

 

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