Zombie Immigration Programs

By Mark Krikorian on May 20, 2015

No, not the immigration of zombies – I mean programs, in this case "temporary" amnesties, that never die.

Today was the last day for illegal aliens and legal visitors from Liberia to register for Temporary Protected Status. Congress created TPS in 1990 to allow the executive to suspend deportations of (and grant work permits to) illegal aliens from countries where there's been a natural disaster or civil strife. I've written frequently about the bogus nature of TPS (here and here, for instance), but always regarding the fact that while the status isn't technically permanent, like a green card, it's nonetheless renewed indefinitely, long after the home-country emergency has passed. An earlier crop of Liberian illegals, for instance, was granted a "temporary" amnesty in 1991 – and they're still here.

There are currently 11 countries whose illegals are enjoying a TPS amnesty; the list is on the left side of this page. None of those people – not one – will ever be made to return home because his "temporary" amnesty expired. I'm comfortable with such a categorical statement because it's never happened to anyone – ever.

But this latest case is a little different. The administration announced in November it would grant a TPS amnesty to illegals from Liberia (and Guinea and Sierra Leone, though their numbers are much smaller) because of the Ebola epidemic. It's the registration for that amnesty that ended today.

Except that the Ebola epidemic in Liberia no longer exists. The UN's World Health Organization declared a week and half ago that "The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over. So we're going to issue work permits (and Social Security numbers and driver's licenses and travel permits and EITC welfare) to Liberian illegal aliens in response to a crisis which passed before the amnesty's registration period even finished.

Next May, the DHS secretary will, in Reuters' words, "assess whether the protection should be extended, based on the level of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa." If you think TPS for Liberians won't be extended at that time, and forever after, I have a bridge to sell you.

This needs to be fixed. As it now stands, every natural disaster or civil war in the Third World turns out to be a jackpot for illegal aliens (or even tourists who happen to be here at the right time) from those countries, providing them de facto lifetime U.S. residence and work permits. The earthquake in Nepal is a case in point; even though TPS is a tool created by Congress for the executive branch's use, a bill was introduced last week (co-sponsored by 52 Democrats and Republican Chris Smith of New Jersey) to grant Nepalese illegals a TPS amnesty. Chuck Schumer has called on the administration to grant Nepalese illegals TPS.

CAIR is demanding TPS amnesty for illegal aliens from Yemen. Rep. Alan Grayson is urging TPS for Venezuelan illegals. The government of Pakistan requested (but did not receive) TPS for its illegals in the U.S. in 2011, and the Philippines for its illegals in 2013. The Los Angeles Times demanded last month we grant TPS to "those migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa via Libya" – which is illogical, since you have to be here already to get it, but maybe this administration will simply "reinterpret" the law to permit grants of TPS to foreigners abroad.

And the nuclear option is Obama granting a TPS amnesty to all 6 million Mexican illegal aliens – which I have no doubt he'd do if he thought he could get away with it politically. (The anti-borders crowd has actually pushed for this; see here and here, for instance.)

Congress needs to abolish Temporary Protected Status. That doesn't mean we'd deport people to Nepal in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. As my colleague David North has suggested, a less-sweeping (and less permanent) response to natural disaster or civil war is simply to halt deportations (and extend the visas of those here legally but temporarily) for, say, six months and then reassess the situation. No work permits, no Social Security numbers, no amnesty – just a genuinely temporary administrative pause.

True, an administration hostile to the assertion of American sovereignty could just keep renewing this decision as well, but it would not be institutionalized and would not confer financial benefits and thus be much easier to discontinue when the time comes. No solution would be perfect, but ending TPS (and banning its administrative equivalent, Deferred Enforced Departure) would help plug this hole in our immigration-control system.