MORE ON TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS
In early January 2018, the United States revoked El Salvador’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. This policy reversal will uproot Salvadorans who have settled legally in the United States, and many could face deportation to their home country, where they will face far more strenuous situations than they did in the United States. One example of these strenuous situations is rampant gang violence; El Salvador has consistently been in the top 10 of the most violent countries in the world. El Salvador is not the first country to lose TPS (Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti all had their TPS status revoked in 2017), but it certainly has far more to lose than any other country — around 200,000 of over 400,000 TPS individuals are Salvadoran. So, with potentially 400,000 lives on the line, what exactly is TPS and how did these countries obtain TPS in the first place?
Temporary Protected Status provides a safe haven for nationals of countries which are facing emergency situations. It is based on the legal principle of non-refoulement — the idea that individuals should not be forced to return to a country where they will face serious threats to their life or freedom. People who are TPS beneficiaries, or preliminarily eligible for TPS, are not removable from the US, can receive employment authorization documents, and may be granted travel authorization (to leave the United States and be allowed to return).
TPS is temporary in nature, and meant to exist only until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deems it safe for foreign nationals to return to their home countries. Furthermore, while TPS individuals can apply for nonimmigrant status and other immigration benefits/protection services, TPS does not naturally lead to lawful permanent resident (green card) status, or any other permanent immigration status. This point is particularly salient in current immigration affairs; many critics comment that TPS creates a false sense of security and permanence, when in reality, it is meant to last while a country’s conditions continue to create danger for its nationals.
According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Secretary of Homeland Security may “designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely” or if the country is “unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.” These conditions can include armed conflicts such as civil war, or environmental disasters like earthquakes.
There are many requirements for individuals who seek to benefit from TPS. The person must be a national of a country designated for TPS, must file for TPS during the open initial registration/re-registration period, must have been continuously physically present in the United States since the effective date of the most recent designation date of your country, and must have continuously resided there since that date. There are lawful exemptions to the latter two rules, but only under certain circumstances. Once TPS has been granted for a given nation, the Secretary of Homeland Security can renew the designation indefinitely, as long as the conditions of danger persist in that nation.
TPS is rooted in humanitarian grounds of compassion towards an individual’s suffering, and the principle that people should not be sent back into extreme danger and threats. DHS decisions for Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, and South Sudan will be rolling out over the course of the next two years. These countries still have TPS, but 2018-2019 will determine whether they continue with their protected statuses or not. Beyond TPS, the executive branch of the United States has the power to designate countries for administratively based protection against removal. Only time will tell whether the United States continues to extend an aegis of protection to nationals of these countries who are still in need.
Written by Keun Won “Brian” Lee
How to Apply For TPS