House Members Demand ‘Amnesty-Lite’ for Four Central American Countries
Last week, 84 members of the House of Representatives sent a “bipartisan” letter to President Joe Biden and the secretaries of the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State requesting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an estimated 1.5 million aliens from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Most of these Central American migrants are in the United States unlawfully.
The only Republican to join the TPS effort was Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. The Florida representative is a vocal proponent of open-border policies, calling for amnesty for illegal aliens and increasing legal immigration levels.
Enacted in 1990, TPS provides non-resident foreign nationals on expiring visas and illegal aliens protection from removal if their home country is experiencing an armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other life-threatening temporary conditions. In addition to receiving temporary legal residency for up to 18 months, TPS recipients can also acquire work authorization and may be permitted to travel outside the United States.
In the letter, the lawmakers cite climate change, food insecurity, the Covid-19 pandemic, and two natural disasters to justify TPS designations for the four Central American nations.
For starters, climate change and nutritional concerns are not grounds for a TPS designation. While the governments of those nations should address those issues, those factors do not prevent their nationals from being returned to their home countries safely. Robert Law of the Center for Immigration Studies has observed that these factors have no basis in administering TPS, as they do not meet the statutory requirements.
Second, the lawmakers point to the Covid-19 pandemic affecting these states as another justification for TPS. Under Section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the DHS secretary may designate a nation with TPS if it is undergoing an epidemic, which is a disease that affects a population within a country, not multiple nations. By definition, the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting virtually every nation across the globe. Based on this logic, nearly every country would be eligible for TPS.
The letter also points to Hurricanes Eta and Iota striking Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in 2020. This reason should raise the following question: since those hurricanes have affected the Central American region, has it prevented any of these foreign governments from adequately handling the return of their citizens?
There’s no question environmental disasters produce adverse consequences for countries. However, the purpose of TPS is to protect foreign nationals from danger if they were to be returned home or if their country of origin is unable to accept them due to the ongoing circumstances of said disaster or conflict.
For years, presidential administrations have routinely abused TPS by not ending its designations when the initial qualifying condition(s) are no longer occurring in a designated country. Subsequently, the program has been used as a “soft amnesty” for illegal aliens to remain in the United States, as most designations are rarely terminated.
In 1999, Honduras and Nicaragua received TPS after Hurricane Mitch struck the two nations. In 2001, El Salvador was granted TPS after two earthquakes hit the country. Despite conditions improving in all three states, their protected statuses have remained intact. As a result, an estimated 300,000 illegal aliens from Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua currently hold TPS.
In November 2020, the Guatemalan government solicited the U.S. for TPS when Hurricanes Eta and Iota ravaged the Central American nation. So far, the United States has yet to authorize it.
Federal lawmakers should scrap their reckless TPS proposal. Like any form of amnesty, it will only encourage more illegal immigration. Moreover, providing work permits to immigration lawbreakers while millions of Americans are currently seeking employment or struggling with wages that cannot keep up with inflation puts our nation’s interests last.