Yet Another TPS Extension Underscores Serious Distortion of the Program’s Purpose
FAIR Take | June 2023
Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced he will extend the temporary protected status (TPS) for aliens from four countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal. These extensions of TPS will be for 18 months –into March 2025 for El Salvador, June 2025 for Nepal, and July 2025 for Honduras and Nicaragua. The extension applies to a little over 330,000 foreign nationals, of which 239,000 are El Salvadorans, living in the U.S. illegally.
This constitutes blatant abuse of the original intent behind the program and represents a quasi-amnesty policy for some illegal aliens that continues to be extended in perpetuity without valid justification. Indeed, most of these foreign nationals should not have TPS at all. In 2017 and 2018, the Trump Administration made the brave and appropriate decision to terminate TPS for foreign nationals from these countries because conditions on the ground no longer supported the designation. (See Federal Register Notices regarding El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Nepal) However, open-borders advocates sued the Trump Administration to stop the rescissions of TPS and this litigation halted its implementation. In the meantime, the government has maintained these aliens’ TPS status.
Even more troubling is that, while announcing the extension of TPS for these foreign nationals, the Biden Administration announced that it will now officially rescind the TPS terminations issued under President Trump. This will reinstate TPS for these aliens five years after it was terminated.
TPS was enacted in 1990 as a way to allow non-resident foreigners unable or unwilling to return home due to emergencies such as civil strife or natural disasters of “extraordinary and temporary” nature to remain in the United States temporarily. The statute (INA Section 244) also provides employment authorization for TPS beneficiaries. There are approximately 672,000 foreign nationals in the U.S. from 16 different countries (most in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and one in Europe – Ukraine) who are either TPS beneficiaries or eligible for the designation. This means that the recent extension affects almost half of that population.
Since its enactment, the program has become a de facto amnesty, and successive presidents have kept renewing it, even if the original justifying conditions have improved considerably since the original TPS designations. Thus, Nicaragua and Honduras were originally designated for TPS because of damage caused by Hurricane Mitch a quarter of a century ago (in 1998), and El Salvador received its designation in 2001 due to an earthquake. Given such widescale and long-term deviation from the original intent of the statute, the Trump administration attempted to rescind TPS designations for some nations, including the ones that just received extensions.
As the Center for Immigration Studies points out, the (only) silver lining in the context of the recent extensions is that, fortunately, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, and Nicaragua were not redesignated. Had that occurred, even greater numbers of illegal aliens could have benefited from perpetual deportation relief.
It is also important to note – if only because it demonstrates its unappeasable nature – that the pro-mass-migration activist lobby believes that Mayorkas’ TPS extension “simply does not go far enough,” in the words of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). Pro-mass-migration politicians and activists have thus called for extending TPS to other countries, making more recent arrivals eligible, or granting them permanent legal status. In fact, reoccurring amnesty proposals have included demands to create eventual paths to citizenship for TPS holders.
Like many other immigration policies – such as guestworker programs – TPS has long suffered from mission creep. Rather than constantly renewing a quasi-amnesty that the program has become, we should pursue policies that aim to put the temporary back in Temporary Protected Status.