At Least One TPS Population Shrinks – That of Sudan

By David North on October 14, 2011

While Temporary Protected Status (TPS) seems to last forever, as those of us at CIS have pointed out several times in the past, the number of aliens using an instance of that status sometimes tends to shrink, as in the case of Sudan.

I was reminded of this by yesterday's (totally expected) press release from USCIS saying that the government has, yet again, extended the TPS for some people from the Sudan. Their "temporary" legal status in the U.S., set to expire on November 2, will now be extended by the usual 18-month period, until May 2, 2013.

TPS allows the holder to be a legal resident of the U.S., and to apply for an Employment Authorization Document, and thus access to the legal part of the U.S. labor market. It does not allow them to bring relatives into this country, nor are they in line for citizenship.

This is the latest such extension, with TPS status for some people from the Sudan dating back to 1997, some 14 years ago. The announcement is not an open sesame of any kind; it simply says that those who have had the status since October 7, 2004, can re-up for another 18 months, provided they file the forms and pay the fees.

What intrigued me in the announcement was the USCIS estimate of: "approximately 340 individuals who DHS anticipates will be eligible". Just 18 months ago that same sentence in the comparable press release set the number at 700.

So the agency expects the population to reduce itself by half, interesting. What is going on here?

In the last year and a half perhaps one or two TPS people have died, others have secured legal status in some manner, and still others have left this country; in addition, and never mentioned by USCIS, some must have fallen into illegal status.

They, reasonably I think, could have thought about the paperwork requirements, and the need to pay some fees, and then looked at the minuscule level of immigration law enforcement in America's interior, and decided that not filing would not create much of a risk.

There's another variable, which is the creation of the world's newest nation, South Sudan. People from that part of the old Sudan, as people from the rest of that often-violent nation, are both eligible to continue their temporary status, as the new announcement made clear. This does not add to the TPS population.

The creation of the new nation, however, must have changed the view of some of TPS holders from South Sudan. Suddenly the war was over, and the non-Muslim people in the South were now running their own country; not only were some of the terrors gone, but there would be new opportunities in the new government for those who had resisted in the past.

We have seen, earlier, how some natives of the Baltic States, long resident in the U.S., flocked back to those nations once they were freed from the Soviet Union. One such reverse migrant, Toomas Hendrik Ilives, a one-time U.S. citizen, went on to become the President of Estonia.

Maybe that kind of emigration is part of the reason for the drop from 700 to 340 in the Sudanese TPS program.

All of this reminds me, of course, of USCIS's often self-inflicted time-wastings with tiny populations. Maybe at some point in the future, when the number of expected TPS re-applicants from a given nation falls below, say, 200, DHS could simply say that the first 200 who applied (legitimately) could get a green card, and then we would wipe the slate clean. That, of course, would take congressional action.