TPS Renewals for Salvadorans, Haitians, Hondurans…
And a future for Venezuelans?
In late February, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would be extending TPS protection to four countries through January of 2020: El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, and Honduras. This comes after the Trump Administration ended protections for TPS holders in 2018. The recent TPS extensions occurred after a series of court rulings combatting the efforts of the Trump administration to end TPS programs. The administration had arranged to end TPS assignation for 6 out of the 10 countries selected. These six countries represented 98% of the immigrants protected under TPS. Immigration advocacy groups and immigration rights organizations sprang into action, and with the help of the courts, TPS was again extended to four countries, protecting approximately 300,000 immigrants who would have otherwise been deported under Trump’s administration. And most recently, discussions/negotiations on granting TPS to Venezuelans has ensued. Let’s discuss…
TPS is a little-known immigration program that extends temporary legal status to immigrants when they are unable to return to their home countries. Usually, their home country is embroiled in social upheavals, armed conflict, or natural disasters. Immigrants from such countries must apply to TPS and be approved. Each applicant must undergo criminal and security background checks, as well prove that they lived in the US consistently since immigrating. Usually, DHS will extend protection to applicants for 6-18 months. After that time is up, however, they can apply for extensions.
Presently, Venezuelan immigrants could be placed on the TPS list. Two bills, one in the House and another in the Senate, have been introduced that would legislatively mandate a grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans. They are, respectively, H.R. 549, introduced by Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), and S. 636, introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). “My bipartisan legislation will ensure that we hold Maduro accountable for his ongoing campaign of crimes against humanity — from torture to the suppression of free speech to using access to food and healthcare as a political tool. It will require the Trump administration to develop a strategy to investigate, freeze and reclaim corrupt assets that Maduro has stolen from his people; and it will authorize a multimillion-dollar humanitarian relief effort… As Americans, we must always stand on the side of all people who struggle for democracy, human rights, and freedom. For years, the U.S. Congress has stood with the people of Venezuela as they’ve endured unthinkable abuses at the hands of the Maduro regime. Now more than ever, we need a strategy that will support the Venezuelan people in their quest for democracy and the right to determine their own destiny,” said Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. He is ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In this writers opinion, there are several reasons TPS protection should be extended to Venezuelan immigrants. TPS protection ensures stable living conditions for immigrants who have remained in the U.S. for many years. On average, Salvadoran immigrants under TPS protection have lived in the U.S. for 22 years and Hondurans for 23 years. Many of these individuals also have children who were born or raised in the U.S. Without TPS protection, their children would be forced to either move to a foreign country or remain in the states after their parents are deported. In addition, TPS requirements include showing good moral character and lack of a criminal record. They participate in the labor force at a rate of 87%. They also contribute $3.6 billion in federal, state, and local taxes. This doesn’t even account for their contribution to social security and Medicare funding. Their presence in the United States strengthens the U.S. economy and job market with immigrants who have no criminal history and who want more than anything else to work hard to provide for their families—ideal immigrants if you ask me. There is no reason to believe Venezuelan immigrants would not be equally valuable.
Some are concerned that extending TPS protection to Venezuelan immigrants could cause them to leave Venezuela en masse, triggering a migration across Central America and Mexico that could be dangerous to the immigrants themselves. While this journey would doubtlessly be dangerous, it is likely no more dangerous than it would be for these individuals to remain in an unstable political environment and an enervated economic environment. TPS protection does not guarantee increased peace or democracy in Venezuela itself, of course, and wouldn’t change the travesty happening within Venezuelan borders. It is unlikely that massive migration to the United States would motivate the corrupt Maduro regime to make any changes since all its despairing citizens would be able to leave the country. Ultimately, however, DHS cannot guarantee peace in any origin country experiencing unrest. And given that Venezuela fits the definition for origin countries deserving TPS protection as well, this author would like to see it done.
What can you do? Urge your representatives to save TPS and create a roadmap for citizenship for all TPS holders.