TPS: What is Temporary Protected Status?

The Trump administration could end Temporary Protected Status for nearly half a million immigrants this year. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich explains TPS.

Posted: May 4, 2018 11:25 PM
Updated: May 4, 2018 11:25 PM

The cruelty of the Trump administration continues. Friday, it announced that it was ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans. Honduran TPS holders will have until January 2020 before their protections expire, giving them 18 months to leave the country or be at risk for deportation. According to a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen "carefully considered conditions on the ground" before reaching the decision.

While not unexpected, this decision reflects the Trump administration's callous disregard for the lives of immigrants. It ignores the harsh realities that Honduran TPS holders could face if they return to their homeland. Not only will it probably increase the size of our undocumented population, but the decision will upend the lives of tens of thousands of people who are legally living, working, and raising their families in this country.

Temporary Protected Status is a classification created by Congress under the Immigration Act of 1990. It allows the secretary of Homeland Security to designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions that temporarily prevent its nationals from returning home, such as a natural disaster, ongoing armed conflict or other extraordinary circumstances.

Basically, it is an acknowledgment that a country cannot safely reabsorb its own citizens, so the US government allows them to remain here. A TPS designation can be made for six, 12 or 18 months, and is subject to periodic renewals by the Homeland Security secretary.

Honduran nationals in the United States received TPS in 1998, after Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras and left it lacking basic infrastructure, sanitation services and safe water supplies. The country is still struggling with gang violence, poverty, and a breakdown of civil order; Honduras regularly makes lists of the world's most dangerous nations.

Now, thanks to the Trump administration, nearly 90,000 TPS holders will be expected to leave the United States and return to Honduras. But conditions there have not improved. If anything, the residual problems since Hurricane Mitch have been compounded by a recent three-year drought and continued political unrest.

Sixty percent of the population in Honduras lives in poverty, and The Guardian reports that unemployment is 56%. Violent crime is rampant.

It is unconscionable that the Trump administration would choose to send people back to such grim circumstances. The administration does not seem to care that Honduran TPS holders have lived here an average of 22 years, or that they have 53,000 US-born children, according to the Center for American Progress. Sadly, this decision follows others by the administration ending TPS for more than 250,000 people from Nepal, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.

Besides the humanitarian concerns, the Trump administration is overlooking other consequences of its decision to end TPS for Hondurans. Consider that many Hondurans with TPS will likely stay here and risk deportation, rather than return home and risk their lives in a devastated country.

Injecting turmoil into the lives of Hondurans here will have effects on their homeland, too. In 2017, Honduras received about $4.3 billion from family members living abroad, amounting to 19% of its GDP.

Most of this money came from the United States, so cracking down on Hondurans here could potentially hurt the country's economy. Indeed, the net result of ending TPS for Hondurans -- when taking into account the drop-off in remittances and the increase in economic uncertainty -- could well be an overall increase in illegal immigration to the United States. This means we could see more humanitarian crises like the recent migrant caravan at our southern border, which was predominantly made up of Hondurans.

As immigration restrictionists like to point out, by definition TPS is not meant to last forever. Yet it should not be ended when the countries in question are not ready or capable of absorbing more people. TPS is not about allowing just anyone into the United States; it applies only to certain foreign nationals who are already here. Nor does it give just anyone a green card or put them on a path to citizenship. It is not amnesty, because it does not permanently change anyone's immigration status. TPS simply allows people from dangerous or unstable countries to temporarily live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

It seems pretty clear that the decision to end TPS for Hondurans was made for political reasons. No one will be safer because we expelled thousands of productive workers. Like terminating DACA and proposing a "Muslim ban," ending TPS is more about this administration's xenophobia than national security.

And what is the policy rationale for adding to the instability in Honduras? There isn't one.

Friday marked another step in the Trump administration's ongoing war against immigrants. The decision to end TPS for Hondurans is mean-spirited, shortsighted and wholly unnecessary.

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