TPS, or Temporary Protected Status, is a special legal reprieve periodically granted to migrants from countries facing a humanitarian crisis. TPS shields them from deportation, making it possible for immigrants to secure steady jobs, homes, financial support for family left behind in their home countries, and long-term economic security in the United States.
TPS has not, however, traditionally been merely “temporary.” Over the years, many TPS holders have lived under the assumption that their right to stay would never really end. But the Trump administration is about to change all that.
Last month, an 11th-hour ruling by San Francisco federal judge Edward Chen—in response to a class-action lawsuit against the administration—suspended Trump’s orders to cancel TPS protection for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua. Now the race is on to make that temporary relief stretch as long as possible, until a real permanent legal solution can be reached. The White House, however, continues its crusade to put TPS holders and other refugees and immigrants on the fast track to deportation.
The administration argues that the program, which covers the four countries in the suit as well as Somalia, South Sudan, Honduras, Nepal, Syria, and Yemen, has been abused because it was only meant as a short-term reprieve, not permanent legal authorization. Yet since the 1990s the government has repeatedly granted extensions to TPS status. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) moved to cancel TPS around the start of the year, declaring the four countries supposedly safe enough for the migrants to return.
To TPS holders, it’s not a matter of simply going home and starting over again. Being forced to repatriate would not only devastate families but also pose an unimaginable social and economic loss to communities.
The lawsuit, filed by TPS holders and their children, argues that American families under federal law “have a fundamental right to live together without unwarranted government interference.” Plaintiff Wilna Destin, who joined the lawsuit to represent the tens of thousands of Haitian TPS holders, put it more plainly: “Even if we’re immigrants, we’re families. And we believe keeping families together is the right thing to do.”
Securing TPS status in 2010—following the massive earthquake in her homeland—allowed Destin to get a stable union job in Orlando as a Disney hotel housekeeper, and then as a full-time organizer, while raising two US-born children with her husband, also a TPS holder. As a worker and mother, she says, “I have done my part to contribute to this country, to this community.”