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Trump Administration Tightens Temporary Protected Status Program

Congress created Temporary Protected Status in the Immigration Act of 1990 to help people fleeing ongoing armed conflicts and environmental disasters. (Adobe Stock)
Congress created Temporary Protected Status in the Immigration Act of 1990 to help people fleeing ongoing armed conflicts and environmental disasters. (Adobe Stock)
September 14, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A new federal immigration policy change prevents immigrants from becoming eligible for a green card if they travel abroad and return to the United States.

Critics say the move was designed specifically to block people who originally entered the country illegally from getting onto a path to gain permanent residency.

Mony Ruiz-Velasco, associate director for network power with the group Alianza Americas, said this seemingly small change could have major consequences for the more than 300,000 people in the country with Temporary Protected Status.

"One of the mechanisms under Temporary Protected Status was that people could get permission to travel outside the country through a process called 'advanced parole,'" Ruiz-Velasco said. "The Trump administration has decided that that legal entry into the U.S. with advanced parole is no longer going to be considered a legal entry for purposes of them applying for a green card."

She said she expects the change to be challenged in court.

In 2019, the Trump administration attempted to end the Temporary Protected Status program entirely, but a series of lawsuits prevented the order from taking effect.

A handful of countries -- including El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan -- account for the majority of all current TPS recipients. Ruiz-Velasco said many individuals make their homes in the U.S., marry and have U.S.-born children.

"People who come from countries where this status was designated because of civil unrest, or some sort of natural disaster, or some reason that was very substantial in their home country that they couldn't return to. And it's a protection that has existed in the law for many years," she said.

According to Ruiz-Velasco, the latest change is among dozens the administration has made to federal immigration policy over the past few years.

The Pew Research Center says immigrants with Temporary Protected Status make up an estimated 3% of the more than 10 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR