If you’ve never heard of TPS before, don’t worry—you’re not alone. While stories about DACA and subsequent legislation continue to make headlines, the elimination of TPS for every country aside from Syria has garnered relatively little media coverage and attention from the American public. TPS, or Temporary Protection, extends allows over 300,000 refugees from countries destabilized by armed conflicts and/or natural disaster to live and work legally in the U.S.—and, if nothing changes in the upcoming months, many of the beneficiaries could be exported by the end of the year.
TPS was first granted to El Salvador in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, which in 1998 killed over 11,000 people. Unlike DACA, this measure was actually passed by Congress years before it was first enacted, in the Immigration Act of 1990. It later expanded to include El Salvador and Nicaragua, which were also affected. These 254,000 Central American refugees have been in the country in for almost 20 years, in the span of which they have built homes, families, and families. Today it covers Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. And yes, as many point out, TPS was only meant to be temporary. But it has been extended again and again over the Bush and Obama administrations due to continued political and social instability in the countries it covers, especially as violence in Central America continues to intensify. And needless to say these are not shithole countries, as Trump would have it. But together, Honduras and El Salvador contain three of the top ten most dangerous cities in the world, not including cities from countries engaged in violent conflict. Gang violence surrounding the drug trade is mostly to blame for this spike in homicides; to say that is unsafe for these immigrants to return to their home country is an understatement, especially as recent studies show that deportation can often turn into a death sentence. More and more people continue to be displaced by violence, forcing them to turn to illegal means to survive.
TPS does not, and never did, offer a path to citizenship. There are two ways someone with TPS could change their status: marry a US citizen or Green Card holder and apply for adjustment of status, or work a full-time job and file a petition with the sponsorship of their employer. Many members of my family, fleeing a country that had been torn by war and natural disasters since the 70s, were able to become nationalized through the first route. But many more others remain in limbo; they may be married to or the parents of citizens, but it is highly unlikely that their applications to citizenship will be granted under Trump’s new era of immigration policy.
Why It Matters
Getting rid of TPS benefits no one. Under Trump’s Executive Order 13768, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, virtually any unauthorized immigrant can be subject to deportation, including long-term immigrants, families, and Dreamers for whom DACA has expired. If nothing changes soon, TPS recipients will be deported. Parents will have to decide whether or not to be separated from their children, or bring them back to a country with fewer opportunities and stability than the one in which they were raised. Ending TPS will not just affect its recipients; aside from harming the beneficiaries, it will also have great economic ramifications. 90 percent of TPS holders are employed, and they are required to pay taxes. According to Alianza Americas, it would cost taxpayers an estimated $3 billion simply to remove each TPS recipient, and their inability to work will result in over $45 billion in lost GDP and $6.9 billion in lost Social Security and Medicare contributions over the span of a decade. Removing TPS holders would also further destabilize Central America both socially and economically, possibly leading to an increase in the gang violence which Trump claims to be fighting. But remember, people are not simply worth their economic contributions to the U.S. TPS beneficiaries represent all that the GOP claims to treasure—hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding, “legal” immigrants—and their expulsion along with the termination of DACA signals a very clear message to Latinos: that no matter how hard we work we can never be fully American, that we are not wanted.
What You Can Do
First and foremost, stay informed—you did that just by clicking on this article! Read more about the bills that going through Congress, and the people that they affect. Spread the word! If you ever find yourself in an argument with someone who simply can’t seem to understand that you should value other humans, Alianza Americas offers some very good talking points on why ending TPS is bad for everyone, as well as many other helpful resources. Sign this petition to save TPS for Haiti. Find out who represents you, and reach out to them. Emails or and letters are better than nothing, but while it may be intimidating, calling is usually the most effective method. Representatives use the number of calls they receive on a certain issue to gauge what their constituents are most concerned about and act accordingly. You can use the picture below as a script, and post this image on social media. And never forget—your voice matters.