Politics of Poverty

Now what? Legislative solutions to the TPS crisis

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TPS supporters rally outside the White House following the Trump administration's decision to end TPS for Salvadorans in the US. (Photo: Daniella Burgi-Palomino / LAWG)

Four bills in Congress offer possible solutions to the TPS crisis affecting hundreds of thousands immigrants who have lived and worked in the US for decades.

Right now, roughly 437,000 of our neighbors are living in limbo. Over the next several months the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will make determinations on their eligibility for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – a program that serves as a form of humanitarian relief for migrants to the United States who may not meet the legal definitions of refugee or asylee but who have fled dangerous and unsafe conditions such as ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary conditions that pose threats to personal safety.

Today, the DHS heartlessly ended TPS for over 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the country for decades and have children who are U.S. citizens.  Last fall, DHS made the inhumane decision to terminate TPS for over 58,000 Haitians and 5,306 Nicaraguans, and delayed a decision for 86,031 Hondurans until July 2018.  And this year, DHS will have to make a decision on whether people from the countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen will continue to be eligible. There is every indication that the Trump administration will end TPS designation for these countries as well, despite the fact that the humanitarian situations remain dire in all of them.

Thankfully, there are some potential legislative fixes on the horizon.

There are currently four bills – three in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate that could resolve the crisis. Two of the four offer TPS holders a way to make their situation permanent, ending the limbo and uncertainty in which they have been living for years.

The first is the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and Emergency Act (SECURE) Act in the Senate (S.2144) and the other is the American Promise Act of 2017 in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4253).  Both bills provide a way for TPS holders and their family members to adjust their immigration status to permanent resident, allowing them to eventually obtain citizenship as long as they don’t break any laws.

The SECURE Act was introduced on November 16, 2017 and is sponsored by  eleven Senate Democrats including Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).  The House bill, introduced by Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), has 44 democratic co-sponsors from across the country including Texas, Indiana, and Georgia.  The House subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security is currently reviewing the bill.  These two bills most closely reflect Oxfam’s position that argues for a legislative solution that provides permanent residency.

We have written extensively about why conditions do not exist in Haiti or Central America for TPS to be terminated for the over 350,000 people who have built families, businesses, and homes in the decades they have lived here. The same is true for countries outside of the western hemisphere. Yemen is struggling through one of the worst atrocities in recent memory. Ports have been blocked for weeks leaving people without access to food, fuel, and medicine, and the UN is warning of an unprecedented famine that could claim millions of lives.  In South Sudan, nearly 4 million people have been displaced since 2011 and half the population is facing extreme hunger. And Syria continues to struggle amidst six years of conflict that has killed more than half a million people and forced 11 million to flee under extreme conditions.  Oxfam’s work has clearly demonstrated that the conditions do not exist for people to return to their countries and as a result we do not support ending TPS for any of the countries currently eligible for protected status.

Oxfam has urged Congress to pass legislation that puts all TPS holders on a permanent road to citizenship and two of the four proposed bills mentioned above offer a way out of this crisis that TPS holders are facing.

The 2018 legislative calendar is full but if enough people in communities and cities across the country raise their voices to call for the SECURE and the American Promise Acts to be passed, elected officials will listen.  It is especially important to get Republicans on board, reflecting the near national consensus that favors a legal path to citizenship. If you want to support TPS holders, call your members of Congress and ask them to support these bills.

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