WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) and Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) today led their colleagues in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in calling on President Biden and DHS Secretary Mayorkas to use the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program broadly and boldly to safeguard vulnerable people.
“We respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the U.S. State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), conduct an immediate review of at least 17 countries to determine their eligibility to be designated or redesignated for TPS, including: the Bahamas, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen. Reports indicate that conditions in each of these countries satisfy one or more conditions of TPS under 8 U.S.C. § 1254a,” the lawmakers wrote.
The members continued, “We welcome your vision of establishing a fair, humane, and functional immigration system that protects those in need of refuge and promotes stability for Americans…. The full, expansive use of TPS designations, which is both in line with Congressional intent and the letter of the law, is a critical tool that can be used now to advance that long-term vision.”
This letter reiterates the message expressed by over 310 local, state, and national organizations in a March letter. DHS has already announced new TPS designations for Venezuela and Burma and a re-designation for Haiti.
Joining on the letter are Senators Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), along Representatives Jake Auchincloss, Earl Blumenauer, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D, Anthony G. Brown, André Carson, Joaquin Castro, David Cicilline, Yvette D. Clarke, Gerald E. Connolly, Val Demings, Mark DeSaulnier, Anna G. Eshoo, Adriano Espaillat, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Mondaire Jones, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, James P. McGovern, Gregory W. Meeks, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Joe Neguse, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Frank Pallone, Jr., Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Kathleen M. Rice, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Bobby L. Rush, Jan Schakowsky, Albio Sires, Dina Titus, Ritchie Torres, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Frederica S. Wilson.
The full letter follows and can be found here.
May 27, 2021
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20016
Dear President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas:
We write to thank you for your administration’s commitment to utilizing the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program to protect vulnerable populations who are unsafe in their home countries due to violence or disaster. In particular, we welcome your recent actions to grant TPS for Venezuela and for Burma and to issue a new designation for Haiti. We respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the U.S. State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), conduct an immediate review of at least 17 countries to determine their eligibility to be designated or redesignated for TPS, including: the Bahamas, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen. Reports indicate that conditions in each of these countries satisfy one or more conditions of TPS under 8 U.S.C. § 1254a.
As you know, Congress created TPS in 1990, delegating authority to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to initiate a temporary, blanket protection for nationals of a country who would face life-threatening conditions if returned. There is no numerical limit on the number of people who can hold TPS; rather, it is meant to provide relief to all those who cannot and should not be returned to dangerous conditions. Unfortunately, the most recent administration failed to use TPS to respond to adverse developments in foreign states.
We welcome your vision of establishing a fair, humane, and functional immigration system that protects those in need of refuge and promotes stability for Americans. We are fully supportive of your legislative proposals toward that aim, including the U.S. Citizenship Act, and thankful to see an expedited pathway to citizenship for TPS holders included. The full, expansive use of TPS designations, which is both in line with Congressional intent and the letter of the law, is a critical tool that can be used now to advance that long-term vision.
First, TPS has long served to provide a safe haven in instances where a person is not eligible for refugee status but remains in need of protection from dangerous conditions. This is an essential concurrent asset as you do the work of rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) following the devastation it has undergone in the past four years. At the same time, redesignations are essential to keeping U.S. citizen children together with their parents, in line with your administration’s emphasis on protecting family unity.
The strategic use of TPS is also important to your stated aim of addressing the root causes of forced migration. A critical prong of addressing violence, instability, and lack of opportunity includes protecting foreign nationals currently living in the United States from being deported to these conditions, stretching those countries’ already-strained capacity to receive them. TPS holders also provide billions of dollars in “unofficial foreign aid” from the United States to their home countries through remittances, lending support to their loved ones to endure the very conditions that make it unsafe for them to return.
Finally, the TPS program serves domestic economic interests. As you know, the program provides recipients permission to work in addition to protection from deportation. TPS holders contribute roughly $2.3 billion in federal taxes and $1.3 billion in state and local taxes each year. They hold an estimated $10.1 billion in annual spending power. Their employers contribute millions into Social Security and Medicare, helping to keep these programs running and solvent. For the past year, many TPS holders have worked in essential industries to keep our country fed, safe, healthy, and clean during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 5, 2021, over 310 state, local, and national immigrant, labor, faith, civil rights, and legal organizations wrote a letter urging your administration to review nearly all of the countries listed above (as consideration for Ethiopia was added after the letter’s publication, the organizations do not have a stated position on TPS for Ethiopia at this time). We join them in respectfully requesting the immediate review of country conditions and the appropriate designations for the above countries, in keeping with your commitment to supporting immigrant communities and a functioning and humane immigration system. It will take time to address the shortcomings of our current system. In the meantime, TPS extends needed humanitarian protections and keeps families together. We thank you for your consideration and attention to this timely issue and greatly appreciate your continued support for the TPS program.
 For example, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are three of the top ten receiving countries of remittances from the United States, with individuals sending home an estimated $8.49 billion, $4.87 billion, and $4.06 billion respectively from 2010-2018. See Martin A. Weiss, Remittances: Background and Issues for Congress 6, Congressional Research Service, R43217, available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43217.pdf.