About 250,000 U.S. residents from El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua will have their provisional residency status extended to January 2020 as the Department of Homeland Security complies with a federal court order.
Since Congress established temporary protected status in 1990, U.S. immigrants with the designation from countries suffering natural disasters, armed conflict, or other major problems are not deported.
There are about 200,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Haitians, 2,500 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Sudanese who have temporary protected status, the Washington Post reports.
The Trump administration had determined this status was no longer merited and it was set to lapse.
Plaintiffs challenged this decision in a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of California, charging that the Department of Homeland Security was engaging in discrimination and violated rulemaking procedures. In October, plaintiffs in the case Ramos v. Nielsen won a preliminary injunction.
The Trump administration said the residents from the four countries no longer merited TPS, arguing that natural disasters from years previously should not continue to justify irregular residency. The U.S. regularly sends back other deportees to countries with citizens on the TPS list.
The decisions drew objections from several quarters. Some U.S. diplomats believed the countries were not in a situation to receive many deportees.
In response to one legal challenge, the October ruling from U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said plaintiffs raised “serious questions” about whether DHS officials’ actions were “influenced by the White House and based on animus against nonwhite, non-European immigrants in violation of Equal Protection guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Several U.S. bishops have spoken on behalf of the various expatriate communities.
In April 2018 a group of Salvadoran bishops and other Church officials visited the U.S. and asked the Trump administration to reconsider its decision ending the protected status for Salvadorans, who received TPS status after a massive earthquake in 2001.
The situation in El Salvador is still dangerous due to gang violence and severe poverty, they said. It is unsafe for people to live in the country and there are very few employment opportunities. The influx of people returning to El Salvador from the United States could overwhelm the already-fragile economy, they warned. Additionally, many Salvadorans living in the United States send remittances to El Salvador, which provides a boost to their economy. These remittances would end if they were forced to leave.
The rejection of TPS for Haitians was “a sad decision,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told CNA in November 2017. Haitians “cannot go back to a situation that still is very difficult,” said Tomasi, who has served as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva and as a counselor for the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Haitian population with protected status arrived in the U.S. after the massive 2010 earthquake killed 200,000 and displaced 1 million people. The landfall of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 “destroyed half the island.”
At the time, Tomasi said, there were still not enough resources to support a return of tens of thousands of people.
A different lawsuit seeks to extend TPS for about 55,000 Hondurans and 9,000 Nepalese.
Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, in November 2017 said that Hondurans with temporary status have “deep ties to our communities, parishes, and country.”
“They are businesses owners, successful professionals, home owners, parents of U.S. citizen children, and most importantly, children of God,” he said.
Vasquez cited major problems in El Salvador related to violence and security threats, poverty, and environmental degradation that justify continued protections for Salvadorans in the U.S.