The Department of Homeland Security, which routinely extends Temporary Protected Status (TPS, a form of amnesty) for 18-month periods, today extended it for only six months for three West African nations where Ebola had been active in the recent past.
My sense is that DHS, feeling that the rationale for creating TPS in the first place in those nations was weak then and is considerably weaker now, compromised between the usual full-throated extension and none at all by cutting the renewal period to six months.
The nations involved are Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone; citizens of those countries who were in the United States on November 21, 2014, whether legally or illegally, were granted the option of applying for TPS. Under TPS an alien can work and cross our borders legally, but cannot use that status as a step toward permanent legal status.
In all too many cases TPS is extended again and again, in two instances for as much as 25 years, as governments find it unattractive to push the aliens involved back into illegal status. More than a quarter of a million aliens from Central America would revert to illegal status were TPS to be terminated for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
The latest extension of TPS for aliens from the three African nations will involve only a little over 4,000 people, as estimated by DHS:
- Guinea: 990
- Liberia: 2,085
- Sierra Leone: 1,145
The only ones eligible for extending their TPS status under today's ruling are those who successfully applied for it in the past. Those seeking a six-month extension that involves legal employment will pay $465 for the documents, just as other TPS aliens do for an 18-month extension.
The Ebola crisis, of course, has been over for some time. All three nations last year were ruled to be free of the virus, though two cases popped up earlier this year in Sierra Leone. U.S. medical authorities no longer advise American travelers to stay away from the three nations and DHS itself has decided not to make an issue of Ebola when issuing advance parole documents for travel to and from those nations. (Advance parole is sort of an interim passport for aliens.)
So while it is perfectly OK for U.S. citizens to go to those countries, it is somehow not appropriate for TPS aliens to do so. That's a decision that suggests TPS aliens are somehow more fragile or more valuable than the rest of us.
I suggested at the time of the first TPS Ebola go-around that what we simply postpone deportations until the epidemic was under control, but that option would not have created an excuse for a little amnesty for an administration that wants a big one.