TPS Holders Need Long-Term Certainty and Security

By Rosa García

On January 8, the Trump Administration will decide whether to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to approximately 200,000 Salvadoran nationals. If TPS for El Salvador is allowed to expire on March 9, 2018, it will be nearly impossible for beneficiaries to live and work lawfully in the United States. They’ll be forced into the shadows or deported to the country they fled.

Authorized through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable immigration status. It provides work authorization and protection from deportation for individuals whose countries have experienced environmental disasters or epidemics, unsafe conditions due to armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions that prevent them from safely returning to their country of origin.

In 2016, El Salvador’s homicide rate was the highest in Latin America (81.2 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants). It’s also been reported that internal displacement due to violence or threat of violence is widespread. To make matters worse, physical damage caused by the 2001 earthquakes has yet to be repaired due to hurricanes and tropical storms, heavy rains and flooding, seismic activity, and other natural disasters. There are still severe shortages of potable drinking water, food, electricity, and housing.

In addition to public safety concerns and challenging living conditions, it’s important to underscore that the U.S. is home for Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries. They’ve established deep ties and connections to their families and local communities, with many living in the U.S. for well over a decade. Salvadoran TPS holders are parents to an estimated 192,000 U.S.-citizen children. These children will not only be left without a parent—which research shows has long-term consequences for a child’s healthy development—but will also be subject to weakened economic security due to the loss of household income.

Like many other immigrant workers, Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries have contributed to our nation’s economy through their entrepreneurial spirit, skills, and strong work ethic. Approximately 88 percent of Salvadoran TPS holders are in the labor force. They own businesses, pay taxes, and hold jobs across many industries, particularly in the home health care, construction and services industries. Each year, they contribute $3.1 billion in GDP.

Given the current state of affairs in El Salvador, denying TPS beneficiaries an extension would be cruel and inhumane. What TPS beneficiaries and their families need is compassion in the form of immediate relief, protections, and an opportunity to acquire legal permanent residency and U.S. citizenship. That’s why scores of advocates, employers, and faith and community leaders are urging U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to extend TPS to Salvadoran TPS holders.

To address this issue long term, Congress must pass the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency S. 2144, the (SECURE) Act. Sponsored by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), this legislation would allow TPS beneficiaries who have been continuously present in the United States for at least three years, and who qualified under the most recent TPS designation, to apply for legal permanent residency. TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador and other parts of the globe deserve nothing less.