Jennifer Kay reports for the AP:
“Immigrants who have legally lived and worked in the U.S. since disasters in their countries years ago may have to start thinking about going home, the U.S. Homeland Security chief said Thursday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Secretary John Kelly sent strong signals that immigration benefits known as “temporary protected status” should not be as open-ended as they have become for tens of thousands of people from Haiti and Central America.
“The point is not that there be a complete recovery of all ills in the country,” Kelly said. “The point is, whatever the event is that caused TPS to be granted — that event is over, and they can return.”
That might shock 86,000 immigrants from Honduras and another 263,000 from El Salvador, who constitute the vast majority of the program’s current beneficiaries.
The Hondurans, along with more than 5,000 immigrants from Nicaragua, became eligible for the temporary protections in 1999 because of destruction from Hurricane Mitch a year earlier. Immigrants from El Salvador were included in 2001 after a series of earthquakes.
Immigrants from those three countries make up 80 percent of the 435,000 people from 10 nations currently eligible. Their status has been renewed every 18 months, and it will be up for renewal again early next year.
Kelly spoke with AP in Miami a day after meeting with Haiti’s president to discuss the return of roughly 50,000 Haitians to the long-troubled Caribbean country. He joined Florida Gov. Rick Scott at the National Hurricane Center to mark the start of hurricane season Thursday.
Kelly said he has not yet discussed ending temporary status with the Central American countries’ leaders. However, he emphasized that those privileges were intended to be temporary, even though they have not been administered that way.
“People in my position automatically — without thinking about it very much, apparently — just simply extended it,” Kelly said. “They weren’t taking the same approach to the law as I am.”
Read the complete article at the link.
A few problems here.
First, Hondurans with TPS have been in the U.S. continuously since 1999, El Salvadorans since 2001. Most of them have homes, jobs, and U.S. citizen kids. They are members of our society. Are we really going to send them home after they have been here for decades in many cases?
Second, the last time a termination of these programs was considered was during the Clinton Administration. At that time, the Governments of El Salvador and Honduras went berserk, telling the State Department that return of that many individuals in a short period of time could destabilize their economies and their political systems. In plain terms, those countries could collapse. Moreover, money sent home by El Salvadorans and Hondurans with TPS status was basically propping up the economies of those countries.
Third, some TPS individuals are under final orders of removal. In theory, they would become removable immediately if they failed to depart after termination of the programs. But, they could move to reopen Deportation or Removal Proceedings if circumstances in their cases have materially changed, which is quite possible. Moreover, many, probably the vast majority, of those with TPS either 1) were never place in Removal Proceedings, or 2) had such proceedings “administratively closed” prior to a decision on the merits by an Immigration Judge. In both of these situations, individuals would have to be placed back on the Immigration Courts’ Master Calendar (that is arraignment) dockets.
Given the current 600,000 case backlog in Immigration Court, and that many Immigration Judges are scheduling new non-detained cases for “individual hearing” dates three, four, or more years from now, most of these cases wouldn’t even be heard on the merits until well after the end of President Trump’s current term.
By that time, individuals will have been in the U.S. for almost a quarter of a century. Many will have adult U.S. citizen children who can petition for them for permanent immigration.
Eventually, folks here from El Salvador and Honduras will have to be given some type of permanent or semi-permanent status, with or without a “path to citizenship.” Until then, they are working, paying taxes, and are an asset to the U.S. and their communities. Because of the nature of TPS, those relatively few who do commit one felony or two misdemeanors are arrested, detained, and removed promptly, unless they qualify for additional relief. And, the Government apparently makes money from the fees generated by extensions of TPS status and work authorization.
So, regardless of the original legal framework, TPS is one of the most successful and beneficial programs that DHS runs right now. Better not to mess with it unless you have a better idea. And, better ideas on immigration are not a strong point of the Trump Administration generally or Secretary Kelly, specifically.