Temporary Protected Status Under the Trump Administration
Across the world, many foreign nationals must flee their home countries in order to gain safety within the United States (US). The US should treat such immigrants with the respect and courtesy they deserve. Certain persons who immigrate to the US because of external disastrous forces within their home countries are offered Temporary Protected Status, also referred to as TPS. Temporary protected status provides safe harbor for immigrants affected by significant hardship and allows them to build respectable lives within the US. In fact, many of those with temporary protected status have lived in America for decades. They have integrated into their communities, contributing significantly to the US workforce and economy.
Recently, President Donald Trump challenged the legitimacy of the TPS program, attempting to cancel TPS rights for immigrants from several countries. If this occurs, it would upend the lives of thousands of individuals and families protected via TPS. This policy would tear families apart. The US would force parents to choose between leaving their children, many of whom were born in America, or moving their entire family to their country of origin to face potential danger. Because of the dire consequences those with temporary protected status face today, it is imperative that the general public, especially immigrants and those involved with immigration law, understand as much as possible.
About Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
In 1990, President George Bush signed the temporary protected status (TPS) program into law. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may attribute TPS rights to immigrants from specifically designated countries. Foreign nationals from TPS countries are likely incapable of returning to their home countries without significant risk of bodily harm. TPS ensures that such individuals are protected as long as their country of origin meets the DHS’s qualification criteria.
Those who DHS grants TPS status must re-register when required to maintain protection and benefits. If an immigrant to the United States is eligible for or granted TPS, it means they have certain rights. These rights include protection from deportation or removal from the US, the ability to work via an employment authorization document (EAD), and leave to travel outside of the US by travel authorization. Additionally, official TPS designation protects grantees from DHS detainment regarding their immigration status.
Finally, it should be noted that TPS status does not naturally lead to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, acquisition of a green card, or naturalization. But possession of TPS rights does not bar a person from applying for benefits such as adjustment of status to gain LPR or green card rights, as long as the applicant meets all other eligibility requirements. If you or a loved one is protected under TPS but has been denied other immigrant benefits, the advice of an expert immigration attorney can help.
What countries currently meet the qualification criteria for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) currently designates countries as TPS based on a specific set of criteria. According to the USCIS website, these criteria consider “any conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, … [or] where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.” Some TPS-eligible situations include civil war or unrest, diseases or epidemics, environmental disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, or earthquakes, and “other extraordinary or temporary conditions.” Some countries have been TPS-designated for a very long time. For example, the US added Honduras to the list after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. In fact, many Hondurans have been present in the US for nearly two decades.
Countries that currently meet TPS qualification criteria are listed on the USCIS’s website. Though the TPS rights of several of the below countries face potential termination, at this time the list includes:
- El Salvador*
- South Sudan
The Trump administration terminated TPS rights for those countries marked with an asterisk (*). Because of this, TPS-designated persons from these countries no longer qualify for special protection. As of October 3, 2018, an injunction from a federal judge was issued. It prevents any deportation of TPS immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan pending further litigation.
Who can apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
Any foreign national from an eligible country may apply for temporary protected status (TPS). In order to successfully apply for TPS designation, a foreign national must also meet additional eligibility requirements. These include a person’s prompt and appropriate filing for status during registration or re-registration periods and continual presence and residence in the United States since the eligible country’s designation date (known as “continuously physically present” or CPP). When considering CPP, “continual residence” allows for what the USCIS describes as “casual and innocent departures” from US soil. In such instances, the USCIS makes final rulings on admissibility on a case-by-case basis.
A person’s criminal history may bar them from receiving TPS. Other reasons a foreign national may be denied TPS include: inadmissibility based on the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), participation in terrorism or acts of persecution, or failure to meet standards regarding CPP or continual residence. If you have petitioned for TPS rights and were denied, an experienced immigration attorney at Davis & Associates may be able to help you.
How do you apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
A foreign national who meets all eligibility requirements for temporary protected status (TPS) may formally apply during a registration or re-registration period. In certain instances, individuals may be eligible to apply for TPS benefits after a registration period ends. The TPS registration and application process requires a variety of paperwork, evidence, and fees, including:
- Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status
- Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization (optional)
- Evidence documents, including passports
In addition to the above filing requirements for TPS applications, any person with a possible reason for inadmissibility must complete and submit Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. A complete list of requirements and submission materials for TPS applications can be found on the USCIS website. If you have questions about your TPS application, an immigration attorney can guide you through this intricate process.
Remember, any person approved for TPS has not been granted lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Therefore, any TPS-designated foreign national will not receive a green card. If you wish to apply for a green card, you absolutely can. But, you will have to meet all eligibility requirements and apply via the appropriate process.
Temporary Protected Status and the Trump Administration
The temporary protected status (TPS) program provides numerous benefits to both immigrants and the United States. Despite this, President Donald Trump has recently challenged the program, facilitating the termination of TPS rights for six countries. The Secretary of Homeland Security, now Kirstjen Nielsen, cancelled the TPS designation of all foreign nationals from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal, Honduras, and Sudan. These decisions directly contrast the counsel of many at the State Department. This includes officials from US embassies and those with expert knowledge of the countries facing TPS cancellation.
The outright termination of TPS status for immigrants who have lived in the United States for an extended period of time is troublesome. For example, some TPS immigrants have resided in the country for nearly two decades. During that time, they’ve grown their families and careers on US soil. If successful, Trump’s cancellation of TPS rights would place hundreds of thousands of immigrants in danger of deportation. In many cases, removal would tear families apart – countless thousands of TPS-designated immigrants have children born within the United States.
Injunction Ordered in October 2018
On October 3, 2018, US District Judge Edward M. Chen of the Northern District of California issued an injunction to temporarily prevent the Trump Administration or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from enforcing its termination of TPS benefits pending litigation. Judge Chen stated that the administration may have violated the Equal Protection Clause by “basing its decision ‘on animus against non-white, non-European immigrants.’” This provides momentary relief for the hundreds of thousands who face dire consequences should their TPS rights disappear.
A New York Times article highlights the challenges faced by TPS designees and their fears regarding potential deportation from the United States. One TPS immigrant stated, “I feel like an American person.” Continuing, another stated “If Trump suspends TPS and they send me back to Sudan, that’s like sending me to…death.” Yet Judge Chen’s injunction does not apply to those immigrants from Nepal and Honduras. The Trump administration also terminated these immigrants’ TPS rights earlier this year.
Talk to an Expert Immigration Attorney Today
The Trump administration will certainly continue to challenge the protections and rights of immigrants across the United States. If a designation of TPS safeguards you and your family, you have rights. But your right to live, learn, and work in the United States may be in jeopardy. An experienced immigration lawyer from a trustworthy law firm can help. They will provide expert counsel and appropriate representation, ensuring protection of your family’s rights. Whether you simply wish to continue your TPS designation, desire lawful permanent resident (LPR) status via a green card, or have other TPS questions, the guidance of a skilled immigration attorney is priceless. The lawyers at Davis & Associates continue to monitor the legal proceedings regarding temporary protected status and updates will be provided when available.