WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

15 Aug 2017 | Commentary

Trump Administration May Discontinue Temporary Protected Status for Hundreds of Thousands of Migrants

Congress Should Oppose the Inhumane and Unwise Move

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a legal status, granted by the Department of Homeland Security, that offers undocumented migrants a stay of deportation and work authorization in the face of circumstances in their home countries that would make it difficult for the country to re-absorb them, if they were returned. Currently there are some 320,000 TPS holders from 10 different countries; the vast majority are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.

Salvadoran migrants who were here when a devastating earthquake hit in 2001 have had their TPS status repeatedly renewed because of the difficulties that the country would have in re-absorbing them. Hondurans here since Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998 have had their status similarly renewed. And Haitians who were here when the 2010 earthquake hit have had their status renewed because of the island’s political and economic difficulties.

However, the Trump administration is considering not renewing the TPS designation when it expires next year for Salvadorans, Hondurans and all other TPS recipients (and has already told Haitians that they will likely lose their legal status in six months).

Last month, twenty-six members of the Senate, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), wrote a letter urging Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and then- former Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, to extend TPS for all nationals currently residing in the United States.

Currently, there is a letter circulating in the House of Representatives by Jim McGovern (D-MA), Norma Torres (D-CA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) with almost 90 signatories urging the Secretary of Homeland Security to renew TPS specifically for Hondurans and Salvadorans. In their letter, Members of Congress stress the historical renewal of TPS for citizens of El Salvador and Honduras by both political parties, as well as the urgent country conditions that would make returning these individuals and families a dangerous and consequential mistake.

There is good reason to renew TPS and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress should be urged to support its renewal.

  • Failing to renew TPS for Hondurans and Salvadorans would needlessly tear apart families and communities across the country. There are currently approximately 200,000 Salvadorans and 61,000 Hondurans who hold TPS, who have been living in the United States for years and who are valued and important members of our communities. Studies have shown that the majority of these individuals have started families, joined the labor force, furthered their education, purchased a home, become active in their communities, paid income taxes and contributed to Social Security, and contributed to the country in many other ways.
  • Ending TPS would have negative economic consequences for the U.S. economy. TPS holders pay income taxes, contribute to Social Security and Medicare, and contribute to the U.S. GDP. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center estimates that TPS holders from El Salvador and Honduras contribute a combined $4.1 billion annually in salary income to the GDP, an amount that would be lost if their status were not renewed and their employment were terminated. Additionally, the study found that these individuals pay a total $525 million in total Social Security contributions and $122 million in Medicare contributions per year. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center also reported that deporting all Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians would cost the U.S. taxpayer $3.1 billion.  
  • Returning hundreds of thousands of former TPS holders to Honduras and El Salvador would have damaging effects on their home countries. The governments of Honduras and El Salvador are unprepared to receive these individuals. Both countries have not fully recovered from the natural disasters that resulted in their original designation, while conditions have been further affected by the fact that El Salvador and Honduras are ranked as among the most violent countries in the world, and job opportunities are scarce. The potential return of hundreds of thousands of TPS holders to Honduras and El Salvador would likely bring destabilizing consequences throughout the region, and would undermine U.S. efforts to advance prosperity and security in Central America.