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  • Uzoma Obi, Esquire

6 Reasons Why TPS Immigrants Should Be Concerned

Many decades ago, my parents arrived in America partly to further their University studies but also, and importantly, to escape a devastating civil war that consumed up to two million lives from south east Nigeria where they hailed. They stayed here for nine years before heading back to Nigeria to rebuild their lives after the country had been certified safe and ready to accommodate returnees.

Unfortunately, not every currently similarly situated immigrant is as fortunate to forge a way back to their country due to ongoing extraordinarily difficult situations that do not make it viable to return home. In recognition of these hardship possibilities, in 1990, Congress established a procedure by which the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a foreign country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.

What must occur for a country to be designated for TPS?

  1. Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)

  2. An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic

  3. Other extraordinary and temporary conditions

What countries and estimated number of immigrants are affected via TPS designation?

  1. El Salvador – Earthquake, 260,000 enrollees; TPS status expires on March 9, 2018

  2. Haiti – Earthquake, 60,000 enrollees; TPS status expires January 22, 2018

  3. Honduras – Hurricane Mitch, 70,000 enrollees; TPS status expires January 5, 2018

  4. Nepal – Earthquake; TPS status expires June 24, 2018

  5. Nicaragua – civil war, 5,000 enrollees; TPS status expires January 5, 2018

  6. Somalia – civil war; TPS status expires September 17, 2018

  7. Sudan – civil war, 1,000 enrollees; TPS status expires November 2, 2017

  8. South Sudan – civil war; TPS status expires November 2, 2017

  9. Syria – civil war, 18,000 enrollees; TPS status expires March 31, 2018

  10. Yemen – civil war; TPS status expires September 3, 2018

  11. Liberia – In addition, Deferred Enforced Departure is an immigration status similar to TPS and is currently active for Liberians however it currently scheduled to expire on March 31, 2018.

The total number of affected TPS enrollees is around 400,000. TPS protects enrollees from deportation allow provides a legal authorization to work and even travel overseas if needed. Many have been on this program for over ten years. When TPS for your country is terminated, you revert to the same immigration status that you maintained before TPS (unless that status had since expired or been terminated) or to any other status they may have acquired while registered for TPS. Accordingly, if an immigrant did not have lawful status prior to receiving TPS and did not obtain any other lawful status during the TPS designation, the immigrant reverts to unlawful status upon the termination of that TPS designation.

Therefore, my 6 reasons why TPS immigrants should be concerned are:

  1. Travel ‘Muslim’ Ban: On January 27, 2017, one of the first things Trump did almost on day 1 was to sign an executive order that banned citizens from Iran, from, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen resulting in up to 60,000 visas being provisionally revoked. Notice that Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are on the TPS list. The travel ban is still under judicial review. If Trump doesn’t get a helping hand from the Supreme Court, he can exercise discretion and refuse to extend TPS for those countries.

  1. TPS revoked on May 21, 2017, by Trump Administration for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone enrollees due to the fact that the Ebola epidemic had ended. If DHS Secretary concludes that conditions have normalized in your country, your TPS designation will be revoked. Haiti enrollees have been already put on alert by DHS.

  1. ‘TPS is Temporary’: On May 22, 2017, then Secretary Kelly granted a 6-month extension to Haiti TPS enrollees and advised them to prepare to return to Haiti as conditions may not warrant further extension past January 2018

  1. Before DACA, there was DAPA: On June 2017, the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, a planned American immigration policy that gave deferred action status to certain illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and had children who were American citizens or lawful permanent residents was ended by the Trump Administration. Potentially, around 3.7 million illegal aliens are affected.

  1. The RAISE Act: In August, 2017, a bill sponsored by Republican senators and supported by President Trump known as the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act seeks to reduce levels of legal immigration to the United States by 50% by halving the number of green cards The bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year (a 50% reduction from last year) and scrap the visa diversity lottery program once and for all.

  1. A dream deferred for DACA applicants: As I wrote previously, on September 5, 2017, the DACA program was rescinded by the Trump administration, but implementation was delayed six months to give Congress time to find a solution. Around 800,000 applicants are affected.

The trend is obvious as it is evident that President Trump is on a mission to fulfill the immigration reform aspect of his campaign promise. Whether you agree or not, his reasons for tackling immigration are threefold: crime reduction, terrorism control and to increase job opportunities for Americans. That message among others resonated with his base sufficiently to get him elected in November 2016. Thus, Trump on immigration is akin to a dog latching onto a bone. He won’t let it go without a fight.

So what can you do? Some members of Congress are lobbying for an extension of TPS for those affected countries on the reasoning that the hardships resulting from civil war or natural disaster have not ended. I guess technically it is possible for TPS to be extended indefinitely but very unlikely. The reality is TPS law is inherently temporary and was never intended to provide permanent legal status to enrollees. More or less, it was a means to show the world America’s compassion towards others in need, just as my parents benefited many years ago (although not specifically through TPS). Notwithstanding the temporary nature of TPS, enrollees can apply to change your status from TPS to an immigrant status presuming you meet the requirements. If your country is still devastated – pretty much all on that list are still struggling with the adverse effects of war or natural disaster – then your goal should be working to file a petition to adjust your status from TPS to a more permanent immigrant status that leads to a Green Card.

TPS filings are complex matters and require the attention of an attorney. Contact us if you need further information.

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