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Congressional Leaders to Biden Administration: Use Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Protect Vulnerable People

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 A week after the Biden Administration designated TPS for Haitians living in the U.S. because of dangerous and rapidly deteriorating conditions, a bicameral group of Congressional leaders is calling on the Biden Administration to take action in countries that are similarly unsafe for return. Yesterday, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez led their colleagues in a letter calling on President Biden and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to immediately review 17 countries for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Each of the 17 countries highlighted in the letter satisfy the conditions required for designating TPS. In an effort to unwind the cruelty of the Trump administration and promote a humane immigration system in line with American values, President Biden, and Secretary Mayorkas must act urgently to review countries for TPS that merit designation and protect vulnerable immigrants and their families living in the U.S. 

The full text of the letter can be found here with key excerpts below:

…We respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the U.S. State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), conduct an immediate review of at least 17 countries to determine their eligibility to be designated or redesignated for TPS, including: the Bahamas, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen. Reports indicate that conditions in each of these countries satisfy one or more conditions of TPS under 8 U.S.C. § 1254a.

As you know, Congress created TPS in 1990, delegating authority to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to initiate a temporary, blanket protection for nationals of a country who would face life-threatening conditions if returned. There is no numerical limit on the number of people who can hold TPS; rather, it is meant to provide relief to all those who cannot and should not be returned to dangerous conditions. Unfortunately, the most recent administration failed to use TPS to respond to adverse developments in foreign states. We welcome your vision of establishing a fair, humane, and functional immigration system that protects those in need of refuge and promotes stability for Americans. We are fully supportive of your legislative proposals toward that aim, including the U.S. Citizenship Act, and thankful to see an expedited pathway to citizenship for TPS holders included. The full, expansive use of TPS designations, which is both in line with Congressional intent and the letter of the law, is a critical tool that can be used now to advance that long-term vision.

…The strategic use of TPS is also important to your stated aim of addressing the root causes of forced migration. A critical prong of addressing violence, instability, and lack of opportunity includes protecting foreign nationals currently living in the United States from being deported to these conditions, stretching those countries’ already-strained capacity to receive them. TPS holders also provide billions of dollars in “unofficial foreign aid” from the United States to their home countries through remittances, lending support to their loved ones to endure the very conditions that make it unsafe for them to return.1

…Finally, the TPS program serves domestic economic interests. As you know, the program provides recipients permission to work in addition to protection from deportation. TPS holders contribute roughly $2.3 billion in federal taxes and $1.3 billion in state and local taxes each year. They hold an estimated $10.1 billion in annual spending power. Their employers contribute millions into Social Security and Medicare, helping to keep these programs running and solvent. For the past year, many TPS holders have worked in essential industries to keep our country fed, safe, healthy, and clean during the COVID-19 pandemic.