More than 260,000 people received temporary relief last month when the Biden administration extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for migrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Nepal, and Honduras until June 2024. The migrants were at risk of deportation after settlement negotiations fell through in October between the Biden administration and TPS plaintiffs in the immigration case Ramos v. Mayorkas. TPS holders and their children first brought the lawsuit against the Trump administration in 2018 when the former president revoked protections for migrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Nepal, and Honduras. While the extension provides some relief, TPS holders from these countries are still left without a secure path forward and carry a lingering fear of deportation.
“The Biden administration has the legal authority and moral obligation to expand TPS to all who need it,” said Doris Landaverde, a TPS holder from El Salvador and a leader in the National TPS Alliance. “Redesignating TPS for Central American countries should be the bare minimum for a government that owes a historical debt to a region ravaged by U.S. intervention and to our community whose labor sustains the U.S. economy.”
TPS is a temporary immigration status provided to nationals from certain countries experiencing issues that would make departure or deportation from the U.S. difficult or unsafe. Holders previously won temporary relief in October 2018 through Ramos v. Mayorkas when a federal district court judge ruled that the terminations were illegal and motivated by racist intent. Then, in September 2020, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s order. Plaintiffs are now awaiting a rehearing before the full 9th Circuit. If the decision to uphold terminations stands and Biden does not intervene, TPS holders from Nicaragua, Nepal, Sudan, and Honduras could lose protection 120 days after the appeal is decided, and holders from El Salvador would have 365 days after the decision until termination. According to Jessica Bansal, legal director of Unemployed Workers United who represents the plaintiffs, the TPS extension will continue as long as the Ramos lawsuit is pending.
“I think this was very welcomed news for people who were otherwise facing the possibility of TPS ending as soon as early 2023,” Bansal said. “It’s brought a lot of relief to people, but it doesn’t end the lawsuit. It doesn’t solve the ultimate problem.”
Bansal said this is not where they hoped to be nearly two years after Biden took office.
“TPS holders and their families deserve better,” Bansal said. “We will continue to fight these cruel and unlawful terminations for as long as necessary.”
For many TPS holders who will not have pathways to adjusting their status, losing the protective status eventually will mean being forced to return to a home they have no recollection of.
“For those folks, it’s really about being forced to return to countries that they in many cases haven’t seen for 20 years,” said Bansal. “We’re looking at this choice between deportation or staying here, living in the shadows, and not having a work permit, and how do you do that? You’ve been working for 20 years, some folks in the same job. These are homeowners; these are people who are going to face some really difficult choices.”
National TPS Alliance members say the TPS extension was a direct result of migrant families organizing and fighting to make their voices heard. Landaverde herself had been planning a hunger strike beginning Nov. 11 to demand Biden take action and redesignate TPS, though the strike was called off once Biden extended the status. Moving forward, Landaverde and Bansal would like to see Congress pass legislation granting permanent residence to longtime TPS holders. “Biden made a clear promise, and we’re waiting for him to fulfill that promise,” Landaverde said.