Chain Migration, the TPS Way

By David North on November 23, 2011

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was supposed to be a one-off, helpful gesture on the part of the U.S. toward a stricken nation, one hit by a natural or man-made disaster, a massive flood or a major earthquake.

For a while, all the victim nation's people in the U.S. – legally or illegally – were to be given short-term legal status till the other nation could get on its feet again.

We did this instead of sending in Corps of Engineers' construction crews and food and money, costs which would be borne by all Americans. No, we legalized some usually low-income foreigners at the expense of their peers at the bottom of the American labor market. It is as if we decided to share the burden, not among 100 percent of the U.S. population, but only among the bottom 30-40 percent.

It became apparent the other day that the TPS status is not only renewed routinely, as CIS has repeatedly noted, year after year, but that some aliens continue to be eligible despite the fact that the sign-up period has closed. It is a sort of rolling open sesame, a chain migration for some relatives of those who had previously signed up for the program.

I am indebted to a friend who does not want to be mentioned by name for pointing this out to me.

On the occasion of the close of the latest extension of TPS for Haitians (in relation to the earthquake of January 2010), on November 15, USCIS released a policy memorandum that, among other things, told of the continuing mini-amnesty for certain aliens, notably (but probably not only) for Haitians.

Reading that document online you'll see a heading with red ink, the only one so highlighted in the entire document, and then look at the next heading, "Late Initial Filing for TPS". Let me offer my translation of the bureaucratic prose therein.

There seem to be three subpopulations eligible to apply late, even though the registration period has ended:

  • An alien who was in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa (such as that of a tourist) at any time during the TPS eligibility period which, in the case of Haitians, was from January 12, 2010, until November 15, 2011.

  • Similarly, no matter how the alien arrived in the U.S., if the alien has a spouse "currently eligible" for TPS status, the alien can seek that status.

  • If the alien was a child of someone "who is currently eligible" for TPS status, and who arrived in the stated time period, that person can apply. "Child" is defined as someone under 21 and unmarried, but if the alien is either married, or over 21, or both, at the time of application, the applicant can be approved as well.


Applicants need to be Haitian Nationals, and to have been physically present in the U.S. continuously starting at some point in the eligibility period.

Why the USCIS has granted these benefits to relatives of aliens both in TPS status, and those currently eligible for it (apparently a different population), was not explained, but it fits neatly with the "let 'em all in" mind-set of the USCIS leadership.

As I read the USCIS document, even if an alien had not bothered to register in any of the three prior TPS sign-up periods, and is illegally in the country currently, that person can still file for TPS if the person meets any one of the requirements noted above.

A Haitian arriving in the U.S. legally or illegally after November 15, 2011, would not be eligible ... unless, of course, USCIS later provides yet another set of exceptions and extensions.

TPS applies to people from many other nations, but the late filing requirements noted above will not produce many applicants because the timeframe for initial eligibility closed in all the other cases many years ago.

The red ink in the USCIS announcement is just another indication of that agency not just administering the law, but actively promoting programs for the legalization of certain groups of aliens.