Posted by Ryan Suto on November 27, 2017 in Blog

In the first year in office, the Trump Administration has been systematically targeting the Department of Homeland Security’s temporary protected status (TPS), which allows citizens of certain war-torn or disaster-ridden countries to live and work in the U.S. as long as their home country remains designated for inclusion in the program. The program requires DHS to periodically evaluate the TPS of countries on the list based on conditions on the ground. Once a county is removed from the list, nationals present in the U.S. either must either find another visa program to allow for continued residence in the U.S. or they must return to their home country.

These decisions can have broad and serious consequences for those here under the program, their communities, and the economies of both the US and their home countries. However, the Trump Administration has been unwelcoming in their assessment of whether foreign nationals should remain in the U.S.

For example, both Sudan and South Sudan were scheduled for review in November 2017, so DHS announced in October that Sudan, which has been on the list since 1997, will be removed in 2018 and South Sudan would be extended through mid-2019 for future review. The over 1,000 Sudanese nationals in the US under TPS, some of whom here for decades, have a matter of months to prepare to return to Sudan or find another visa program in order qualify to remain in the US.

After Sudan came Nicaragua. Added to the list in 1999 after a devastating hurricane, there are over 5,000 Nicaraguans in the US under the TPS program who have a year before their home country is removed from the program. More recently, the Administration has decided that Haiti will be removed from the TPS list in July 2019--a mere 18 months after the decision was announced. This decision will require the difficult decisions for the over 50,000 Haitians in the U.S., here since a 2010 earthquake rocked the Caribbean country. This population alone has an estimated 27,000 US-born children. 

Over a 6-month period, Trump’s DHS faces TPS decisions which could impact more than 400,000 foreign nationals currently in the US. The following countries remain on the TPS list: El Salvador, Honduras, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Administration’s decision thus far gives reason for foreign nationals in the U.S. under the TPS program--along with their family, friends, employers, and other community members--to fear the future and connect their fate to the President’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy agenda.

While there exist legitimate reasons to remove a country from TPS, the swift decisions to remove three countries within two months betray an ideologically-driven DHS which cares little about the realities on the ground of each country. In this vein, the Los Angeles Times has questioned the basis for removing Sudan from the list, writing, “International human rights watchers say Sudan remains dangerously unsettled; the State Department warns Americans not to travel there in part because uncontrolled militias roam portions of the country.” Likewise, the Miami Herald has questioned the removal of Haiti, describing the conditions of the country: “In addition to cholera, and political and economic stagnation, even the U.S. government has failed to deliver on its post-quake promises. A public hospital that it is financing along with the French government still has not been built.”

Through policies such as the Muslim Bans, the refugee ban, the ending of DACA, increased ICE deportations and 287(g) partnerships, and now TPS decisions, this Administration has a demonstrated policy priorities of inconveniencing, hassling, removing, and detaining tourists, foreign nationals, visa holders, undocumented immigrants, and at times even U.S. citizens with connections abroad. Continued removals of unstable and recovering countries from TPS will force hundreds of thousands of people who live productive and meaningful lives in the U.S. to make difficult choices of leaving families, businesses, and communities behind, to the satisfaction of the Trump Administration’s exclusionary political agenda.