What Can President Biden Do Right Away on Immigration? Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

(Photo/Creative Commons/Fibonacci Blue)

President-Elect Joseph Biden will take office in January with limited Congressional resources to pass broad immigration reform, but that does not mean that he will be unable to take decisive action to help immigrants in the United States. We need to advocate strongly that he act in January on behalf of immigrants.

Over the next week I will take a deep-dive into some of the things Biden can do without any need for Congressional action. Today I wanted to sketch out what the president can do about Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program Trump had slated for extinction.

First, Biden needs to renew TPS during his first days in office. TPS for a number of countries will expire in January. The impacted countries include Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, three of the largest immigrant groups on Long Island. There are roughly 15,000 Long Islanders set to lose their status in January, so it is crucial that Biden act first to save TPS. All it takes to authorize a renewal is a notice in the Federal Register from the Department of Homeland Security. Even though new work authorizations won’t be able to be processed for several months for the renewals, the notice can include an automatic six month renewal that will keep people working.

The renewal is within the sole prerogative of the president and the Department of Homeland Security. A renewal has never been successfully challenged in court. This should be easy.

Next, the president should reauthorize TPS for the countries that have already been covered by the program. Sounds like the same as a renewal, but it is actually even better. This would allow new applicants to access the program, so long as they come from the already-designated countries and have a clean criminal record. This is likely to take a little longer than the renewal process, but the Biden administration has full legal authority to carry it out under a long0established statute passed in 1989.

This is important because TPS authorizations have a cut-off date designating a date that the applicant had to have already been in the United States to qualify for the program. For example, Hondurans with TPS had to be in the U.S. by 1999 to qualify. Even though the human rights situation in Honduras is worse now than it was 21 years ago, no new applicants have been given TPS who arrived after that cut-off date. A reauthorization could open up the program to people who came after that date.

Finally, the Trump administration refused to offer TPS to people fleeing emerging human rights disasters that arose around the world during the last four year. President Biden should work with the State Department to identify countries meeting the requirements of the TPS statute and begin the process of designating new countries for TPS. These include countries with severe human rights violations, countries at war, and countries devastated by natural disasters.


These countries currently have TPS grants:

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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