Temporary Protected Status Policy Needs Reform
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) provides a short-term immigration pathway for foreign nationals fleeing conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary circumstances in their home countries. TPS is no longer a temporary immigration measure. Many foreign nationals from the three largest populations – El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti – have now spent more than 20 years in the U.S. TPS holders from these three countries contribute $4.5 billion to the U.S. economy every year. They contribute to the American way of life.
Today, more than 400,000 foreign nationals from 12 countries hold TPS or are eligible. TPS holders collectively have 273,000 U.S.-born children. We need to reform TPS policy to provide TPS holders with greater clarity and certainty on their status. Long-time TPS holders need access to a pathway to citizenship. These reforms will benefit U.S. communities, the U.S. economy, and TPS families.
Several reforms are necessary. The U.S. needs to improve the transparency of TPS termination or redesignation practices. First, the U.S. should publicize decision-making criteria and include TPS holders’ perspectives in policy deliberations. Second, the U.S. should increase the minimum and maximum duration of TPS extensions to 12 and 36 months, respectively. Third, the U.S. should reform the decision deadline to a minimum of 180 days before TPS is set to expire. Such policies will improve TPS holders’ integration, support economic growth, and stabilize poorer economies.
These reforms are necessary because the TPS program no longer meets the needs of recipients. Many TPS holders do not wish to return to their home country after living in the U.S. for an extended period. They cannot fully integrate into their communities while worrying about status renewal or termination every 6-18 months. They cannot make long-term decisions. TPS holders must apply through family or employment-based petitions to gain lawful permanent residence. Such policies hinder holders’ full integration into their communities. Without providing a pathway to citizenship, 273,000 U.S. citizens will be at risk if their families are deported.
TPS reforms will bolster the U.S. and global economy. TPS holders contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy each year. TPS holders can reduce labor shortages. They have high labor force participation rates. They provide remittances to their home countries, stabilizing these countries’ economies and supporting U.S. foreign policy. Providing long-term residency or citizenship options will help the U.S. maintain strong economic output. It will also ensure that money filters through legal channels.
TPS reforms will enable both government officials and TPS holders to prepare and plan. With longer extension and expiration periods, TPS holders can focus on their jobs and contribute to their communities. The U.S. will be able to refocus attention on other pressing immigration challenges. Already, draft legislation for DACA recipients includes reforms to create a pathway to citizenship for TPS holders. New TPS policy and practices will complement this legislation and facilitate a smooth transition for TPS holders to long-term residency or citizenship.
Creating a pathway to citizenship through TPS reform legislation assures humane immigration. The U.S. has a responsibility to avoid refoulment, or the return of migrants to dangerous conditions. To meet this commitment, the U.S. needs to be transparent about the conditions countries must meet before sending migrants back home. Reforming the TPS policy will minimize the risk of family separation of parents and U.S.-born children by expanding opportunities for citizenship and reunification.
The costs of rescinding TPS are far greater than the costs of reform. The U.S. would lose workers and an estimated $164 billion in income from Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian workers. TPS holders’ home countries would suffer a sharp loss of remittances. Reform costs far less. As TPS holders are already in the U.S., reform would not include costly measures such as increasing border security or processing an increase in immigrants at the border.
The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants. Today, immigrants contribute billions to the U.S. economy and fill important jobs. To continue this legacy, the U.S. must reform TPS legislation. Immigrants strengthen the economy, communities, and the American way of life. Ultimately, the American dream is made possible because of immigrants.