The Biden administration recently reversed a Trump-era immigration policy by extending legal residence for Temporary Protection Status (TPS) recipients from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nepal.
Although the 18-month extension, which took force on June 13, is a welcome reassurance for more than 300,000 migrants from those countries, advocates and immigration experts say the measure is not enough.
“The administration chose to stay at the bare minimum threshold,” said Vanesa Cárdenas, director of the Washington-based immigrant rights group, America’s Voice.
This newly released extension reverses the 2018 decision by the Trump administration to end the protection status for migrants who have lived in the U.S. since the 1990s.
TPS is a designation granted by the federal government to foreign nationals from countries experiencing ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters, among extraordinary conditions, allowing them to reside and work lawfully in the U.S.
Cárdenas and others argue that this renewal doesn’t go far enough to protect TPS recipients from future termination efforts, and doesn’t include migrants from other countries that fall under the TPS program.
“If it is unsafe and unwise (…) to send back individuals who have fled instability and violence,” said Cárdenas in a statement to Caplin News.
Biden’s decision to renew TPS for these countries leaves an open door to new legal challenges to the status of hundreds of thousands living in the US.
Immigration policy analyst Juan Carlos González says TPS is but a Band-aid for an immigration system that is not fit for the crises facing the region.
González is the director of the Florida International University Immigration Clinic, a group that provides free legal assistance for immigrants in South Florida.
“TPS is an attempt to support political asylum, a legal measure that was originally meant for very specific groups or people,” González told Caplin News, adding that the policy has been extended beyond its original intent – meant as a “temporary” solution and not meant to be renewed over and over again, which has been the case since it was first introduced in 1990.
González added that the U.S. immigration system still lacks the tools to efficiently support people arriving in the U.S.
González also said that he is concerned about the anti-immigrant sentiment in some sectors in U.S. politics, and a program such as TPS with its temporary solution to a permanent program can make it harder for immigrants. Immigration reform legislation, including offering a path to permanent legal residency and even eventual citizenship has been introduced several times in the past few years but has failed each time to gain traction.
“We need to find reasonable paths for people who come to the U.S. to enjoy a life of opportunity and prosperity without fear of being threatened by the state or any administration,” said González.