It is 11:36 a.m. on Monday, January 5, 2015. You are Ali Abdullah, a Syrian who desperately wants legal status in the United States but has been refused a visa. You have just seated yourself for an early lunch in Kingston, Canada, on the northern edge of Lake Ontario.
As you wait for the waiter, you check your laptop for the latest immigration news from the States (you had foresightedly asked USCIS to send you bulletins, as I have done).
And there it is – the announcement that the U.S. will offer legal status (Temporary Protected Status, or TPS) to all Syrian Nationals who can claim “continuous residence in the United States since January 5, 2015".
You rub your eyes and check the date on the lower right-hand corner of the laptop and find that today is, in fact, January 5, 2015, and that you have 12 hours and 24 minutes to get into the US so that you can claim TPS. It does not matter if the entry is illegal. And since you know something about U.S. immigration policies you know that if this TPS is like the rest of them, you will have temporary legal status there for the rest of your life, if you just keep re-applying for the next 18 months of TPS.
You rush to your rental car, drive to the nearest waterfront, buy a kayak, tie it to the car, and then head to the nearby Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River, the body of water that divides Canada (and Ontario) from the U.S.(and New York State.) You drive about 30 miles down river, towards Montreal until you get to Ontario Route 137, where you turn south, toward the border.
In a couple of miles you find yourself on Canada’s Hill Island. You then drive around until you find the closest crossing to America’s Wellesley Island, which at some points looks on the map like it is only one or two hundred yards away.
You remove the kayak from the car, look both ways to make sure that the Mounties are not watching, and then paddle quickly to the other side with your suitcase, and by 1:30 p.m. you are safely on the other shore, a bit cold but now safely in the U.S. for the rest of your life, if you so desire.
At this point you look for somewhere (in the U.S.) to have lunch, which you pay with a credit card, keeping the receipt showing that you were in the U.S. on January 5, 2015. And since you have scruples about some things, you call the Canadian rental car agency and tell them where to find their car.
I have fabricated Ali's story out of whole cloth, but the basic fact that the government has again opened the TPS door to Syrians is accurate. And the announcement, like several other similar ones made on other TPS situations, allows alert potential protectees, like Ali, some notice that if they hurry, they can get into the U.S. before the deadline.
Clearly, given the situation in Syria, the U.S. should not deport anyone to that country, now or anytime soon.
But why does not our government simply announce that deportations to Syria (never very frequent) will be suspended till further notice, rather than giving legal status in this country to all citizens of that country simply because they, by accident or design, were in this nation on or before January 5, 2015?