The Corner

Law & the Courts

Temporary Protected Status Means Never Having to Go Home

Congress in 1990 created something called Temporary Protected Status in an attempt to hem in unilateral executive actions on immigration. The law created a framework for presidents to let illegal aliens from a country stay here for a limited period of time if there was a natural disaster or civil violence back home that made the country “unable, temporarily, to adequately handle the return of its nationals.” The point was to prevent presidential freelancing, though what had happened up to that time was microscopic compared to Obama’s outrages. (I wrote last month about the likely grant of TPS to Ecuadorian illegals in the wake of the earthquake there.)

Predictably, there’s nothing “temporary” about TPS. No one – not a single person – has ever been made to leave the United States because his TPS ran out. There are now maybe 300,000 or so illegal aliens with this status, which gives them work permits, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and more. Obama’s lawless DACA and DAPA amnesties were modeled on TPS, though they target politically sympathetic categories of people rather than all aliens from a particular country, as TPS does.

The reason this “temporary” status is de facto permanent is that it is renewed every 12 or 18 months, forever. The Liberians who were the first group to benefit from the new formal status are still here a quarter-century later.

Today’s TPS renewal was for 60,000 Hondurans (and 2,000 Nicaraguans) who originally were permitted to stay because of Hurricane Mitch – in 1998. The Federal Register notice explains:

Although some of the destroyed infrastructure and housing has been rebuilt, Honduras continues to suffer the residual effects of the storm. The United Nations Development Programme has stated that Hurricane Mitch set Honduras back economically and socially by 20 years.

Twenty years? So come 2018 we can send them back? Of course not, because now there are new reasons to prolong the amnesty:

Since the last extension of Honduras’ TPS designation, Honduras has experienced a series of environmental disasters that have exacerbated the persisting disruptions caused by Hurricane Mitch and significantly compromised the Honduran state’s ability to adequately handle the return of its nationals. Additionally, climate fluctuations between heavy rainfall and prolonged drought continue to challenge recovery efforts.

Ah, “climate fluctuations” – amnesty if there’s too much rain, and amnesty if there’s too little. So we can repatriate only those illegal aliens whose home countries have just the right amount of rain every year?

Toward the end of 2014, Honduras suffered damage from severe rains, landslides, and flooding, as well as from the heavy winds associated with Tropical Storm Hanna. Partially due to the heavy rainfall, Honduras saw a dramatic increase in mosquito-borne diseases, particularly dengue and chikungunya, in 2014 and 2015.

Too many mosquitoes = amnesty?

The system of public hospitals is failing under this threat; in July 2015 the president of Honduras’ medical school warned that public hospitals in Honduras were barely able to provide medicine for common illnesses, let alone an epidemic of chikungunya. In rural areas, the health care system does not have the capacity to meet the needs of the local population.

Sounds like most places in the Third World.

A prolonged regional drought, which began in the summer of 2014, has heavily affected Honduras, leading to significant crop losses in 2014 and 2015, massive layoffs in the agricultural sector, negative impacts on hygiene, and an increase in food insecurity and health risks. The agricultural sector has also continued to suffer from the impacts of a regional coffee rust epidemic, resulting in lost livelihoods and weakening Honduras’ economy.

“Coffee rust”? Seriously?

Curiously, Iraq is not one of the countries whose illegals have received a TPS amnesty, despite the residual effects of the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. And Tunisia’s never been the same since the Third Punic War in 146 BC.

Over the course of decades of lawful residence, “temporary” amnesty holders put down roots, have children, and so on, making it politically and even morally difficult to expel them – which is obviously the point of the constant renewals. One thing that might help is to require that any renewal after the initial grant be approved by both houses of Congress rather than the administration doing so on its own.

But in the end, no immigration system can have any integrity if the chief executive is dead-set on castrating it.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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