Temporary Protected Status at Risk: Implications for Central America and U.S. Policy
Since 1990, the U.S. government has offered Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to nationals of countries experiencing natural disaster or civil conflict. In the Americas, TPS protections have been extended to hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians, allowing them to live and work legally in the United States so long as the designation is renewed.
In recent weeks the Trump administration has ended TPS protections for Haitians and Nicaraguans, and deferred a decision affecting Hondurans until July 2018. A decision on whether or not to renew TPS for citizens of El Salvador—who represent 60 percent of all TPS holders—is expected to be announced in early January.
On December 19, the Wilson Center’s Latin America Program and the Migration Policy Institute hosted a teleconference focused on the legal framework for TPS (particularly for Hondurans and Salvadorans) and profile of current TPS holders; the capacity of El Salvador and Honduras to receive and meaningfully reintegrate returnees; and the implications of TPS termination for broader U.S. policy goals in Central America.
“For El Salvador, there are about 262,000 individuals in the United States that are covered by TPS. The announcement that we’re awaiting would need to be made by January 8, 2018, according to the statute. If there is no announcement, which is possible, then the TPS would continue automatically for sixth months… Nonetheless, all signs at this time point to the supposition that Salvadoran TPS is likely to be terminated.”
“The real issue now is likely to be the amount of time allowed for the wind down, whether it would be a six-month period, which is the typical wind down, or whether it would be a longer period of time… If it’s a long period of time [18 months to two years], that may very well be a signal to the Congress that there is time to find a legislative fix.”
“We have to recognize that the approach that’s being taken to TPS by this administration is markedly different from what has been the case in past years by both Republican and Democratic administrations because the issue and the question that’s being put before us on the broad policy table is what constitutes temporary.”
“If you have a period of a year to 18 months before the status actually expires, it’s much more possible to do the kind of planning and pull together the kind of wherewithal… to be successful than if it’s very short period.”
Eric L. Olson
Q. What would be the implications of a termination of TPS for broader U.S. goals in Central America?
“The implication would be the potential of undermining our own goals [of addressing the drivers of migration from Central America].”
"It’s not just what happens to the people who return because, in fact, they may be returning with certain resources and skills they’ve developed in the United States over this period of time.., but it’s the potential dislocation of people in El Salvador that is concerning… It’s not necessarily that those who are deported or are returned will just turn around and come back themselves, but they can create their own dislocations in El Salvador because they compete for a very limited number of jobs."
"What would be the real capacities of these countries to reintegrate all these returnees? I certainly do not see the possibility that, if TPS is cancelled, that these two countries can absorb massive amounts of returnees."
"Both countries [El Salvador and Honduras] have been opening and broadening the scope of these [migrant reintegration] programs, but these hardly can deal already with the numbers of returnees that we are still receiving in these countries related to other irregular migration processes."
"In the case of El Salvador, around 17-18% of the gross GDP is coming from remittances. Out of this, 30% are [from] people currently holding a TPS status in the United States."
Eric L. Olson
Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Seattle International Foundation
Latin America Program
The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin America Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action. Read more
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