The Trump Administration recently signaled that it may consider ending some Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for countries that have benefited from the special status in recent years. For example, TPS for Haitian nationals was very nearly terminated. It was extended through January 22, 2018 only after intense lobbying. Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly “extended the TPS designation,” <https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/temporary-protected-status-haiti-extended-six-months>, but only after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) initially recommended terminating the protection and “intense lobbying by elected officials and advocates for immigrants” http://observer.com/2017/05/haiti-temporary-protected-status-trump/ .
It is clear that the Trump Administration will review existing TPS designations and terminate those that it believes are no longer necessary.
The Crisis in Haiti
TPS was granted for nationals of Haiti after the country experienced a devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010. Aftershocks followed and the capital city of Port-au-Prince was severely damaged. Homelessness and starvation became critical problems for hundreds of thousands of Haitians, leading to epidemics of cholera and other infectious diseases. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck southern Haiti, resulting in”$2.8 billion in losses” http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article161397653.html. These conditions have hampered or delayed efforts to rebuild the country. When USCIS announced its most recent extension of TPS for Haiti in May 2017, it cited the significant progress made in the recovery from the January 2010 earthquake, but acknowledged that dangerous conditions in the country still persist. This announcement cautioned Haitians who are in the U.S. to prepare for a time when TPS is not extended, and when they would be expected to return to Haiti.
What is TPS?
Temporary protected status is a temporary immigration status that allows nationals of specifically designated countries to remain in the U.S. and apply for work authorization. TPS may be granted when conditions in a country prevent its nationals from returning home safely, or where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. TPS is designed to help these situations by providing a legal way for nationals of a specific country, who are already in the U.S., to remain here temporarily and to legally work during their stay. Reasons for a grant of TPS include ongoing armed conflicts, an environmental disaster (including earthquakes and hurricanes), epidemics, and other extraordinary and temporary conditions.
What does TPS mean for individuals?
During a period when TPS is granted, individuals must apply for individual TPS status through the USCIS. Once an individual is found to be eligible for TPS, they are temporarily protected from removal from the U.S. (formerly known as deportation), eligible to apply for employment authorization, and may be granted limited travel authorization. The protection from removal means that the individual may not be detained by officer from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. TPS does not provide a path to applying for lawful permanent residence (often referred to as “green card status”). In order to qualify to legally work in the U.S., individuals from TPS designated countries must apply for an employment authorization document (EAD).
Countries currently designated for TPS
USCIS maintains an “online listing” https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status of countries that are designated for TPS, which as of today, include: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
TPS is an important source of temporary relief to the individuals who are stranded in the U.S. and unable to return to their home country. Individuals who apply for TPS work here legally and are often able to send remittances back to their families living in dire situations. We will continue to monitor the TPS designations and update our readers with changes.