An Outcry for Temporary Protected Status in the Northern Triangle

Slightly over 25 years old, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program was introduced in 1990 as part of Nationality and Immigration Act. With the introduction of TPS, as it is best known for, Congress intended to provide a temporary safe haven for individuals who were unable to return safely to their homes due to an emergency, such as war or natural disaster1. As a result, the Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS when conditions in that country temporarily prevent those country’s nationals from returning safely2.

This Monday, 22 US Senators wrote letters to the president. The letter from the US Senators can be found here. It addresses concerns about the raid performed on the homes of immigrant families (often women and children), which took place during last year’s New Year weekend.  At the top of the list, were individuals who were denied asylum and thus ordered for removal proceedings by an immigration judge and those had recently crossed the border illegally – children notwithstanding.  In its report, “Women on the Run” the UNHCR asserts that these women fleeing Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are refugees.  The report exposes the reality of the alarming violence which forces these women and children to run away, and from which their governments are unable to protect them.

The letter also addresses concerns of due process as well, referencing “multiple reports that individuals targeted by these raids were not provided meaningful due process or access to competent counsel.”  The senators ask that the president “slow down the fast track immigration process” so that these individuals may have access to meaningful representation at the very least.  Thanks to Hollywood, most of us have heard the Miranda warning: "You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you." Such is the basic tenet of our court system; the right to legal representation. But for hundreds of thousands of immigrants facing deportation, the baseline guarantee of equal justice that most Americans are entitled to simply does not exist for everyone. Not because they can’t turn to the US constitution, but because immigration proceedings are matters of administrative law.  And despite measures taken by activists and non-profit organizations, there just simply isn’t enough legal help to go around.  

The letter also asked to add Guatemala to the list of countries afforded TPS and to re-designate Honduras and El Salvador to TPS again until federal officials declare it is safe for them to return to their home countries.  Human rights-based organizations took a similar approach and sent a letter to President Obama urging him to realize that the present conditions  in the Northern Triangle meet the criteria for TPS.  The letter includes thought-provoking and even horrifying statistics about these countries.  On a similar note, these and other organizations have also sent letters to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson calling for an end to the raids.

TPS does not guarantee a right to a green card or citizenship.  Under TPS, beneficiaries are able to stay in their host country and apply for permit, so that they may live in dignity and safety, and be afforded the opportunity to take care of their families.  Once it is safe to return, TPS beneficiaries would no longer be eligible to remain in the U.S.



[1]Journal on immigration and Human Security, Temporary Protected Status after 25 Years: Addressing the Challenge

[2]Retrieved from: on Jan 26, 2016.



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