Among temporary amnesty measures, one that has not received any attention is Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS was adopted in 1990 to cover aliens in the United States when a temporary period of civil strife or natural disaster arose in the home country making it unreasonable to expect the aliens to return home at the end of their permitted stay. However, those illegally in the country are also able to take advantage of the status even though they have no intention of returning to their home country. Given the number of years that those who are currently benefitting from TPS have remained in the country, it is reasonable to assume that if the TPS designation lapsed, the beneficiaries would remain here and be illegal residents.
The Obama administration, like earlier administrations, has routinely provided extension after extension – in 18-month increments – of the TPS designations so that TPS is the equivalent of the temporary amnesty provided to DACA recipients, i.e, with work permits and protection against deportation. The most recent example of this never-ending temporary status was announced on January 25 when TPS for Sudan and South Sudan was extended from May 2016 to November 2017. The DHS announcement cited “…ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions…” It is interesting that the administration currently knows what the conditions in Sudan and South Sudan are likely to be in May – four months away.
To illustrate this indefinitely extended temporary stay, below are the countries that currently have TPS designations and the beginning of the TPS coverage:
Liberia March 1991 (changed from TPS to deferred departure in 2007)
Somalia September 1991
Sierra Leone November 1997
Sudan November 1997 (and South Sudan since independence)
Guinea-Bissau March 1999
Honduras December 1998
Nicaragua December 1998
Haiti January 2001
El Salvador March 2001
Syria March 2012
Recent additions to the list are Nepal (added June 2015) and Yemen (added September 2015).
A glimpse at conditions in those countries may be gleaned from the State Department’s country travel alerts:
“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to plan proposed travel to Liberia carefully and to exercise caution when traveling in Liberia.”
“.. the U.S. government cannot provide any consular services to U.S. citizens in Somalia.” (No U.S. embassy)
“Travelers are urged to exercise caution especially when venturing beyond the capital.” (Sierra Leone)
“…U.S. citizens [should] avoid all travel to the Darfur region of Sudan, the Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan States, and … consider carefully the risks of travel in other areas of Sudan.”
“The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to South Sudan.”
“Due to the current political, economic, and security situation in Guinea-Bissau, all U.S. citizens and organizations should exercise heightened personal security awareness.”
“Crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues.”
“Because even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate into violence, we advise you to avoid crowds and blockades during such occurrences…” (Nicaragua)
“While hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Haiti every year, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to be mindful of the security situation and weak emergency response infrastructure while in country.”
“While most travelers to El Salvador experience no safety or security problems, the criminal threat in El Salvador is critical…”
“The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria…”
If U.S. citizens may travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau with caution, natives should be able to return with no fear. The conditions in Somalia, Honduras, Syria and South Sudan appear to justify some level of fear about returning, but that does not appear to be case for Haiti, Nicaragua and El Salvador.