Since Uzbek national Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov rented a truck to run over and murder eight people in New York, the Diversity Visa which enabled him to enter the United States has come under intense scrutiny. President Trump has called for the DV’s immediate end, and the random lottery may be headed for the scrap heap.
Another long-standing, counter-productive immigration program, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), also appears to be reaching the end of the line. Congress created the DV and TPS as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. TPS reflects well on U.S. compassion for worldwide sufferers. TPS allows illegal aliens present in the U.S. whose home countries are enduring national disasters, civil wars or other extraordinary conditions to remain here legally and to obtain work authorization. Typically, TPS privileges are extended for periods between six and 18 months.
Generously but unwisely, TPS status is often quasi-automatically renewed. As a result, some nationals have been “temporarily” in the U.S. for 18 years. Such is the case with Nicaragua and Honduras.
Earlier this week, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke announced that TPS for Nicaragua would end, but left the Honduran status unchanged, meaning an automatic six-month extension. Since Hurricane Mitch devastated both countries in 1998, observers couldn’t understand Duke’s contradictory decision.
About 5,300 Nicaraguans will remain protected from deportation and can continue working until January 5, 2019, when their temporary status formally expires. Nicaraguans have 14 months to arrange their affairs in anticipation of their journey home or to hope that Congress approves the amnesty Duke urged.
TPS is the latest evidence that on immigration, the federal government does little right. While offering TPS to disaster victims is kindhearted, renewals that extend for decades – well after a crisis has ended – makes removal difficult.
Most departing people will experience some hardship upon returning to their homeland, and no doubt compelling personal stories might argue for remaining. But their return will be an immense benefit to their countries. Some who arrived as tourists and overstayed their visas have educated and skilled backgrounds, likely augmented during their U.S. stay. Those who return may possess the needed leadership skills that will help their native countries advance, and hopefully create a society that will provide greater well-being.
Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pointed out another reason removal is overdue. TPS hurts American workers. In a written statement he made earlier this year, Grassley noted that the program permits several hundred thousand otherwise removable aliens to remain in the U.S. where they receive public benefits and employment authorization, permitting them to take jobs that might otherwise be filled by the millions of unemployed or under-employed Americans.
Steps in the right direction: TPS has been canceled for Guinea, Liberia, Sudan and Sierra Leone. Including Nicaragua and Honduras, TPS is currently extended to ten nations, three of which are known sponsors of terrorism: Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
The Trump administration should keep the individual countries’ re-evaluations moving forward with the objectives of rebuilding devastated nations, protecting American workers and restoring credibility to U.S. immigration policies.