The Department of Homeland Security has finally decided to (slowly) terminate Temporary Protected Status for small numbers of people from three African nations — Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — noticing belatedly that the Ebola Crisis that created TPS for them in the first place is long gone.
TPS is a status conferred on aliens by the secretary of Homeland Security when a disaster of some kind impacts a given nation or nations; a disaster of such proportions that the secretary suspends the enforcement of immigration law against the nationals of that country who are in the United States at the time, giving those aliens present in the United States either legally or illegally both temporary legal status here and the right to work legally.
The decision to end TPS for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is unusual.
Typically DHS renews TPS status year after year. For example, there are currently a couple of hundred thousand former illegal aliens from El Salvador in TPS on the grounds that some earthquakes happened there in 2001 and the administration believes that, despite the passage of all those years, it is not appropriate to make illegals return to that homeland.
Whereas the earthquakes and the Ebola crises are all equally part of history, the decision to undo the TPS status for the three African populations, but not for those in Central America, may relate to the numbers involved, and perhaps to the relative political significance of the different populations.
There are only 4,270 Africans, DHS estimates, in the to-be-terminated TPS populations, according to the September 23 edition of the Federal Register. (For the announcement about Guinea, for example, see here.) There are 930 from Guinea, 2,160 from Liberia, and 1,180 from Sierra Leone.
In contrast, there are currently over a quarter of a million TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador and other Central American nations, as we previously estimated from DHS data.
And while there are no prominent quasi-political groups pressing the interests of former residents of Sierra Leone, for example, there are numerous substantial ones pushing the interests of Latin American migrants of all kinds. In short – and this is cynical of me, I admit – there is not much of a downside for DHS to do what it ought to do regarding these three small African populations, while there would be a firestorm if the Central Americans were told to go home.
The termination of TPS for these three African populations will be slow in coming. The current 18-month status was scheduled to expire (or possibly to be renewed) on November 21 of this year. Everyone now in TPS status from these three nations will now be given another six months of it, until May 21, 2017, with this short-term extension requiring no applications or fees.
On the May date, the 4,270 will revert to their prior immigration status, or to some new one that they acquired during TPS. Those left without legal status are encouraged by the Department to file for a new immigration status or to return to their homelands. Don't look for any massive forced removals, though; that is not how DHS does business.
Baby steps, to be sure, but it is good to know that some small segments of TPS can be, and have been, terminated.
For our report on the 2015 renewal of TPS for aliens from these three nations see here.