By Estarlin Paulino
Nearly 300,000 Salvadorans, Haitians and Nicaraguans who were granted provisional residency protection and allowed to live in the United States for years, and in some instances for more than a decade, must leave the country. On November 6, 2017, the Trump administration and officials from Homeland Security announced they were ending the humanitarian program known as Temporary Protected Status for individuals from Nicaragua. The same announcement came fourteen days later for Haitian nationals. And on January 8, 2018, the program was terminated for those from El Salvador. The move is one of the Trump administration’s latest reversal of year-long immigration policies. It’s also one of the most consequential to date.
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Immigration Act of 1990. The Act created a humanitarian program commonly referred to as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which permits the United States Attorney General to grant refuge to immigrants from countries destabilized by war or environmental catastrophe. TPS also allows the U.S. immigration agencies to suspend deportation of protected individuals from countries with ongoing armed conflict and “other extraordinary and temporary conditions,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Foreign nationals with TPS protections are generally able to obtain work authorization and a driver’s license. However, the TPS designation is subject to U.S. government review and can only be extended for up to eighteen months at a time.
Once an individual is granted temporary protected status, they are protected from removal from the United States. In addition, an individual with TPS cannot be detained by the Department of Homeland Security on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States.
Termination of TPS for those selected countries is a continuation of the Trump administration’s commitment to reining in both legal and illegal immigration. This began by ending protections for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, beginning in March of 2018, unless Congress intervenes and grants legal status before the protective period expires. As of March 22, 2018, Congress has failed to reach an agreement concerning DACA. The failure to reach a deal continues a legal limbo for the recipients of DACA, who for now are protected from deportation under court orders.
The Trump administration says the Temporary Protected Status program, despite its name, has turned into a quasi-permanent benefit for hundreds of thousands of people.
Haiti provides a troubling illustration of the detrimental effects of the Trump Administration’s order. The Obama administration announced the protection of the Haitian people after the 2010 earthquake left a quarter million individuals dead, and countless others without homes and basic human needs. Eight years later, the island nation continues to struggle to rebuild from the wreckage. Due in large part to the continuing crisis in Haiti, the U.S. has repeatedly renewed TPS grants for Haitians, including one six-month renewal by the Trump administration. The TPS status officially expires on July 22, 2019, leaving Haitians with little more than a year to determine their next move. Around 60,000 Haitians are at risk of deportation once the July 22 date passes, unless they are able to find another legal status in the U.S.
In 1999, Homeland security provided Nicaraguan citizens with protective status after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the Central American nation, killing upwards of 11,000 people and causing more than $4 billion in damage. The Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS gives the roughly 2,500 Nicaraguans in the country fourteen months to attempt to amend their residence status, leave the country or face deportation.
Salvadorans are the largest group of immigrants that have been granted temporary protected status. Since 2001, nearly 200,000 mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters from El Salvador have been granted protection and allowed to live and work in the U.S. This stems from a pair of devastating earthquakes that struck their country in 2001. Under the Trump directive, Salvadorans will have until September 9, 2019, to change their residence status or face deportation.
The Trump administration has yet to decide the fate of 50,000 Hondurans living the U.S that are under TPS. The Department of Homeland Security stated that they needed more time to consider their fate, but a decision is expected in July.
North Carolina has a large population of individuals that are benefitting from Temporary Protected Status. There are over 13,000 people TPS holders in North Carolina from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti. Which include, 5,900 Salvadorans, 6, 200 Hondurans and 1,000 Haitians.
According to the Center of American Progress, TPS recipients contribute significantly to the North Carolina economy. This report estimates that $570.1 million will be lost from state GDP without TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. An additional $256.8 million in income and related financial benefits is attributed to Salvadoran workers, $48.6 million to Haitians, and $264.7 million to Honduran workers.
A Business Insider article points out, “A study by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center found that stripping Haitians, Salvadorans, and Hondurans—who may see their TPS status rescinded this summer—would, over ten years, deprive Social Security and Medicare of $6.9 billion and shrink GDP by $45.2 billion.”
University of Scranton professor Mike Allison notes that the Trump Administration's policy is “probably going to worsen poverty and the conditions in El Salvador, but it's also going to do the same thing in the United States. If you end up deporting or taking away the legal status of 200,000 people, they're going to lose the good-paying jobs that they have right now." By removing thousands of employed individuals, their children won’t be able to rely on their parents income for support, which will force, a large majority into poverty.
Ending the protection for Salvadorans, Haitians and Nicaraguans leaves fewer than 100,000 people that are protected by TPS. The termination of this program by the Trump administration for these countries will result in countless families being torn apart, with children growing up without their parents. The people that have been protected by TPS have created a life and a future in the United States. Holders of TPS have created a life for themselves and shaping their communities. All of this, is now being threatened by an administration that wants to remove people out their homes that they have been building, in some cases, for almost two decades.