TPS makes ethical sense for immigrants amid Caribbean recovery
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to protect immigrants in the U.S. from being deported to hurricane-battered islands in the Caribbean. They petitioned the Trump Administration to grant “Temporary Protected Status” to immigrants from islands where, a month after two monster storms, basic life necessities remain in short supply.
With attention rightly focused on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, thousands of people have also been displaced on islands outside the U.S. Dominica lost most of its agricultural stock, and Barbuda is uninhabitable. Rebuilding will take years, if not decades.
Nearly 4 million Caribbean immigrants, including many in New York, now face an uncertain future. The Trump administration is deporting immigrants with no criminal record, including parents whose children are American citizens. President Trump also threatened to end DACA, and deport youngsters who were brought here as children and grew up alongside American peers.
TPS provides a humanitarian alternative when it is too dangerous for immigrants to return. Conferred by the Department of Homeland Security, TPS offers temporary but life-saving protection from deportation. The program has been administered successfully since 1990.
TPS is rare and extraordinary. Only 10 countries presently qualify, including Haiti, an island overwhelmed by record-breaking hurricanes, a catastrophic earthquake, and outbreaks of disease. Seven years after the 2010 earthquake, 38,000 people still live in squalid displacement camps. Recovery, you see, takes time.
TPS does not encourage immigration or provide a back-door to citizenship. Typically granted for 6-18 months, only immigrants with a “continuing presence” in the U.S. qualify, subject to background checks and other requirements. New immigrants are not eligible.
TPS can be renewed, but only after input from the State Department and other interested parties. Moreover, undocumented immigrants retain that status after TPS expires.
Importantly, TPS promotes development and stability, thereby reversing the need for protection. Immigrants send much of what they earn working in the U.S. back to their country of origin. Liberia received $340 million annually, a full 25% of GDP, before TPS expired earlier this year. Remittances to Sierra Leone and Guinea also helped move those countries towards stability, and off the TPS list.
In the Caribbean, remittances already range from $9 million to $3.8 billion annually. Every one of those dollars and more will be needed to rebuild.
In Tompkins County, citizens and immigrants are one. We’ve adopted “Sanctuary” protection, established a “Rapid Response” network, and recognize Catholic Charities for the service it provides to all people in need, including immigrants. Let’s build on this progress.
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and urge your elected officials to support TPS. Also encourage local lawmakers to take a stand so that our national legislators will prioritize local needs.
Our friends and neighbors from the Caribbean need us now. Let’s be there for them.
Kathleen Bergin is a human rights lawyer who worked with disaster survivors on the Gulf Coast and in Haiti. She blogs at The Disaster Law Page.