President Donald Trump is not just willing to give amnesty to so-called “Dreamers,” he’s also down to give permanent legal status to several hundred thousand illegal immigrants who benefit from a little known amnesty program.
Temporary Protected Status was created in 1990 to help individuals who couldn’t return to their home country due to a catastrophe such as a natural disaster or civil war. A total of 435,048 illegal immigrants from ten nations (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) currently benefit from TPS, according to the latest Department of Homeland Security statistics.
The program has been criticized by immigration hawks for being anything but temporary, considering nations like Honduras and Nicaragua have received TPS designation since 1999.
The extended period of time some TPS beneficiaries have remained in the U.S. is central to the administration’s willingness to give them legal status.
“Given the lengthy period of their presence here, Congress may wish to find a solution that allows them a more permanent status versus this 18 month to 18 month temporary fix that has been going on for two decades,” a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters Tuesday. “That is up to Congress, but the administration would support Congress’ efforts to find such a solution… We do hope and encourage Congress to look at this and find a solution.”
Three Florida Congressmen have already introduced legislation granting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Honduras who received TPS protection prior to January 13, 2011. Around 410,000 illegal immigrants from these countries get TPS.
“While hoping and waiting they would be able to return to their native countries for years, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Haitian migrants have become essential parts of the South Florida community by contributing to our local economy and our culture,” Republican Florida Rep. Carlo Curbelo, a sponsor of the bill, said in a press release.
His co-sponsor Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen added: “These neighbors have become an integral part of our society and contribute to every sector of our economy. I’m co-sponsoring this bill, introduced by my friend and colleague, Carlos, so that Nicaraguans, Haitians, Salvadorans, and Hondurans who abide by our laws are not anxious about deportation, and can instead continue to contribute to the economic prosperity of our local communities.”
The DHS doesn’t share statistics on the number of illegal immigrants who go on to become TPS beneficiaries. Some could have had worker visas that were about to expire at the time of receiving protection from the program, but those TPS recipients would be now be deportable without this protection.
TPS beneficiaries are not only protected from deportation, but they are also allowed to work and receive public benefits.
Trump’s embrace of legislative amnesty for roughly 800,000 DACA recipients — and now an additional 400,000 TPS beneficiaries — betrays his campaign promises.
“When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, and lower wages,” Trump said in a major immigration speech on August 31, 2016. “We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty.”
Like a potential DACA deal, the White House is seeking to get immigration enforcement and legal immigration reforms in any sort of TPS legislation.
“The administration’s position on DACA, TPS, and immigration enforcement priorities is consistent in that we believe. And the president has espoused this on the campaign trail and in office that any legislation that Congress puts forth should take into account and promote the best interests of the American people above other interests,” a senior administration official told TheDC Wednesday.