This week Guatemala's government asked for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guatemalans in the United States, weeks after a volcano erupted in the Central American country.
The secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States. Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS. The DHS secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following temporary conditions in the country: ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war); an environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane); an epidemic; or for other extra ordinary conditions.
According to Guatemala's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, TPS should be granted "as a result of the eruption of the Fire Volcano and the consequences that this caused to the country." Moreover, TPS should be "considered a support for Guatemalan migrants, since at this moment [Guatemala] is unable to properly handle the return of its citizens, and their eventual return would aggravate the situation that Guatemala faces." The press release announcing the request for TPS also acknowledges that TPS would benefit Guatemalans who are in the United States illegally. Under TPS, these Guatemalan migrants would not be removed from the United States and could obtain a temporary work permit.
Reportedly, this is not the first time Guatemala's President Morales has asked for temporary protected status. Since taking office in 2016, the Guatemalan president has seemingly made four requests for TPS to be granted. (The Guatemalan embassy in Washington, D.C., was not able to confirm the number of times a request for TPS had been made.) On Twitter, the Guatemalan president explained that he instructed for the latest request to be made as migration policy has always been a priority for his government.
He instruido a la Ministra de Relaciones Exteriores, solicitar de inmediato ante el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos de América, el Estatus de Protección Temporal (TPS), porque la política migratoria siempre ha sido una prioridad de mi gobierno.
— Jimmy Morales (@jimmymoralesgt) June 25, 2018
Prior administrations have also requested the status for Guatemalans in the United States. In 2005, President Óscar Berger asked George W. Bush for TPS, given the damages caused by Hurricane Stan. Three years later, President Alvaro Colom asked for TPS after tropical storm Agatha hit Guatemala in 2008 and again in 2010 after the Pacaya Volcano erupted. In 2013, President Otto Perez Molina asked for TPS after Guatemala experienced an earthquake in 2012. None of the requests for TPS have been granted.
President Jimmy Morales will address TPS for Guatemalans while Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen visit Guatemala on Thursday to discuss immigration policy with leaders from the Northern Triangle countries.