The debate over ending Temporary Protected Status or TPS for roughly half a million people living in the United States began in January 2018. Back in the spring, the current administration announced an end to TPS for immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan. Given the number of people impacted by the termination of TPS and the current political and safety conditions in these countries, the backlash to this announcement was immediate. The announcement worried immigration lawyers in California and from around the country.
Several chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits in federal court to block the termination of TPS for immigrants from all four countries and on October 4th a federal judge in the Northern District of California ruled in favor of the ACLU. This extends some hope to 300,000 or more people that would have lost their legal status as soon as November 2, 2018.
With a temporary injunction in place by the federal district court, you are probably wondering: what happens next?
Back Up: What’s Temporary Protected Status?
Temporary Protected Status is a form of temporary immigration status extended to foreign nationals from countries seriously impacted by natural disaster or armed conflict. TPS became part of U.S. law under the Immigration Act of 1990. This Congressional law implemented a procedure and process for the Attorney General of the United States to grant TPS in the limited events listed above or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. The Attorney General is also responsible for removing countries from the list approved for TPS.
Approval of TPS is a two-step process. The individual must be from a country granted TPS by the Attorney General and have an application approved by immigration officials. Initially, the individual’s country must be on the list of designated TPS nations, which currently numbers 10. Foreign nationals from Haiti, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Nicaragua, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan can apply for Temporary Protected Status. The administration announcement to end TPS for four of these 10 countries would impact the vast majority of individuals in the United States under Temporary Protected Status.
Jump Forward: What Happened in Spring 2018?
Between January and May 2018, the Secretary of Homeland Security, a branch of the Attorney General’s office, announced the end of TPS for four countries. Several of these countries were approved for TPS since the 1990’s and nationals from these countries had lived in the United States since. The termination of TPS to Salvadorans, Hondurans, Haitians, and Sudanese is based on Secretary Kristen Nielsen’s assessment that conditions in these countries have improved sufficiently.
Of course, these announcements coincided with the arrival of thousands of people from Central and South American countries seeking asylum from gang violence and other violent conditions.
The intent of TPS was always a limited form of relief to people in dire and stricken countries. Yet, many individuals granted TPS have lived in the United States for 20 years or more. There are stories of Haitians that immigrated to New York 18 years ago and stayed and individuals from Nicaragua that arrived in Miami in the late 1990’s.
These individuals fell in love, got married, had families, found work, and built entire lives in the United States. However, if and when their country was removed from the list of eligible nations for TPS, these individuals would only have a set amount of time to change their legal status in the United States or leave. April’s announcement by the Department of Homeland Security meant the end of legal status for people living under TPS in the United States.
Next Up: Temporary Injunction and Uncertain Status for TPS
Last week, the Northern District of California put a halt to the Trump Administration’s plans to terminate TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. The ACLU argued, on behalf of immigrants from all four countries, that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended TPS without notice or explanation.
The federal judge agreed that this lack of notice or explanation was in violation of the Administration Procedures Act of the United State and that TPS was terminated for a discriminatory purpose. The resulting injunction offers relief to individuals from these four countries but leaves their future uncertain.
Right now, the injunction merely maintains the status quo and future policy changes by DHS, the Attorney General, the Trump Administration, or Congress could put their status in question once again, for an immigration lawyer in California, the legal work regarding TPS is just beginning.
If you are living in the United States under Temporary Protective Status and you have questions on the October ruling in the Northern District of California, your status in the United States, or the future of TPS, you can contact our team at Greco Neyland. Our office can be reached by calling (213) 295-3500.
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