Major Developments in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Program -- December 2022
JoAnn Goedert, Government Relations Special Contributor
December 13, 2022
Major Developments in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Program
For immigrants from countries beset by violence, natural disasters and other turmoil, TPS provides protection from deportation and other benefits–at least temporarily. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that over 504,170 immigrants from 15 countries have or are eligible for TPS in the U.S. The program has been much in the news lately and, in recent weeks, the news has been good.
What is Temporary Protected Status?
DHS grants TPS to immigrants in the U.S. from countries that it identifies as unsafe due to political unrest, natural disasters, and other hazardous conditions. Immigrants with TPS can remain in the U.S. temporarily without fear of deportation and can work and travel regardless of their immigration status, even if they were otherwise here without lawful authorization. Typically, DHS grants TPS for 18-month periods that are often extended, and it applies it to immigrants already in the U.S. at the time of their home country’s TPS designation. TPS is not a direct path to permanent residency or citizenship, but it temporarily provides solid protection from deportation and a means of employment for hundreds of thousands of TPS recipients.
TPS Re-Designation for Haiti
On December 5, DHS announced the TPS re-designation of Haiti, a country struggling with government upheaval, widespread gang violence, the aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes and, now, a cholera outbreak. The TPS status of approximately 100,000 Haitian immigrants who arrived in the U.S. in recent years was scheduled to expire on February 3, 2022 unless the Biden Administration took action. With the new re-designation, Haitian nationals who arrived in the U.S. by November 6, 2022 will be eligible for TPS through August 3, 2024.
The Biden Administration’s TPS Expansion
The Biden Administration’s expansion of the use of TPS was especially welcome, and a departure from Trump Administration efforts to dismantle the program (which were impeded by court action). The Biden Administration tried to legislate permanent protections for TPS recipients, but that failed when Republican Senators refused to consider immigration reform.
The Biden Administration has extended prior TPS protections for immigrants from South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. It also added eight new countries—and more than 175,000 newly eligible immigrants–to the TPS list, including Venezuela, Myanmar, Somalia, and Yemen in 2021, and Afghanistan, Cameroon, Ukraine, and Ethiopia earlier in 2022.
A Crisis Averted
On October 25, a threat to long-standing protections for TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal abruptly surfaced, resulting from the revival of a 2018 court challenge to Trump Administration efforts to dismantle TPS. While immigration advocates initially succeeded in federal district court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and held that Trump’s actions were lawful. When the Biden Administration took over in 2021, the parties entered into many months of settlement negotiations that stayed further court action. But those talks broke down in late October with no settlement, leaving the future of nearly 370,000 immigrants whose TPS was scheduled to terminate on December 31, 2022 at serious risk.
On November 11, that crisis was averted when DHS announced an 18-month extension—to June 31, 2024 for existing TPS recipients from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal who were subject to the December 31 deadline. This extension was an act of simple humanity, especially since most of the individuals caught up in the court case have been in the United States for decades. NETWORK joined with the TPS-DED Administrative Advocacy Coalition, a coalition of over 100 representatives of faith-based and secular organizations, in urging the Administration to take quick action to announce a prompt TPS extension. (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/60b79f3630f94f1039bd0125/t/635a9dde506660168de54139/1666883038701/2022-10-27+Press+Release+re+Ramos+Settlement.pdf). To the great relief of the faith community and all people of good will, that call was answered.
The Future of TPS
At this time, more than 500,000 immigrants in the U.S. are secure in their TPS protection, but TPS remains only a temporary benefit, and any future extensions or expansions of the program will be decided by whoever is in the White House. NETWORK will monitor future developments in the TPS program and continue to advocate for TPS holders and all of our immigrant neighbors.