The Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security have extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) until October 21, 2021. The program allows immigrants to live in the U.S. with temporary citizenship and work authorization and was originally set to expire on January 4th, 2021.
However, Category 4 hurricanes Eta and Iota have been causing destruction in Central America, primarily in Honduras, which prompted the administration to allow the extension. This will permit more than 400,000 immigrants from Honduras, Sudan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal, and Haiti to continue living in the states, according to Al Jazeera. Despite this action, the period following the next nine months will see many families and individuals being forcibly displaced from their current lives if no further action is taken to instate additional immigrant protections.
Many associating parties – particularly, leaders of the countries hit by the hurricanes – have spoken up about the crucial next steps to take. In a statement released on December 4th, the Honduran President Lisandro Rosales called for U.S. financial aid assistance, “Reconstruction comes from a sustainable social and economic rebuilding, and our compatriots here in the United States can [help] achieve that by supporting their families in Honduras.”
Guatemalan President, Alejandro Giammattei, helps to add to Rosales’s points from his speech given at a Honduras event with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. Giammattei explained, “If we don’t want hoards of Central Americans looking to move to other countries with better living conditions, we have to make a wall of prosperity in Central America.” Many Central American presidents realize the best option towards improving their economies, security, and providing a place that can welcome back their families living in the U.S., is through improving basic societal and economic structures.
Foreign intervention can allow this push, a move wholly within the realm of possibility for the U.S. – but this has not been done. According to NPR, less than 1% of the U.S. budget goes towards foreign aid, even less exclusively towards Central America since this amount is distributed globally. Statistics from the World Bank showed that in 2015, remittances sent to Honduras from U.S. Hondurans accounted for ten per cent of its GDP. This trend is not uncommon among Central American countries and their U.S.-based population.
For the TPS holders living in the states, the extension only applies to those who have re-registered for their status during certain time periods, ranging between 2015 to 2018, that differ based on the country. After the southwestern hemisphere’s natural disasters this year, thousands of individuals have streamed into the U.S. seeking asylum, but many have not been able to do so because they were absent during these re-registration dates. Along with this, keeping TPS status is a constant struggle as it must be renewed every six to eighteen months, and the U.S. government can decide at any time their reason for residency is no longer legitimate, which forces a person to return to their home country.
The TPS was launched after the Immigration Act of 1990 was passed. The program has experienced multiple extensions ever since its implementation. After Trump took to office in 2017, the TPS has been a central target, which led to more than 95 per cent of TPS beneficiaries being terminated and forced to leave the country, as confirmed by the National TPS Alliance. Many lawsuits have been filed against the government and Homeland Security for the sudden moves made to take away protections.
On September 14, 2020, the lawsuit Ramos v. Nielsen was introduced to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in regard to the planned termination of TPS holders from El Salvador, Sudan, Haiti, and Nicaragua. If this decision had gone through, more than 300,000 holders would have been stripped of their status, and according to Al Jazeera, 273,000 U.S.-born children of those individuals would have been forced to leave their home country or split from their families, if they remained in the U.S. The Ramos event ended with a preliminary injunction being issued to protect TPS, but only for now.
During a Hempstead rally last month, Biden pledged to undergo “an immediate review” of TPS once he takes office next year. The newly elected U.S. president has also promised to protect TPS holders, which allows for promising prospects of the future for the beneficiaries. However, further actions regarding the Ramos lawsuit are yet to be determined. The case is still open and may lead to measures taken that oppose Biden’s promises.
Although the TPS program can see many more extensions in the future, the short-lived, unreliable guarantee to remain in the U.S. puts refugees and displaced individuals alike under constant distress for where their future lies. Advocating for long-term, permanent residency is the only solution we can hope to see, but many more obstacles must be overcome first.
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