TPS Goes Far Beyond Helping Aliens at Risk of Deportation

By David North on October 28, 2015

Newly released USCIS data on Temporary Protected Status for aliens from three West African nations shows that for every alien whose deportation is prevented, about 100 applications for TPS are received.

TPS is designed to avoid the forced departure of aliens back to their home countries when those countries are in the midst of a catastrophe of some kind, such as the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea early last year. Clearly we should not be deporting people to a nation in the midst of an Ebola epidemic, but TPS turns out to be a much more extensive program than simply postponing deportations for six months or a year, which would be a far better policy.

As noted in an earlier posting, TPS grants legal status for 18 months for all persons from a troubled nation who happen to be in the United States at the time, whether they are here legally or not. The government routinely extends these 18-month periods again and again, so that these grants of legal status can run on for decades, as we described in some detail in a CIS Backgrounder last year.

The West African TPS was announced by USCIS for all citizens of the three countries who were in the United States on November 20, 2014. These were these subsequent events:

  • May 9, 2015: Liberia was declared Ebola-free;

  • May 20, 2015: The initial TPS registration period ended;

  • June 25, 2015: Not satisfied with the turnout, USCIS extended the sign-up period;

  • August 18, 2015: The second sign-up period ended.

Using the most recent (2012) published data on deportations, the table below compares the number of deportations to those countries to the number of TPS applications received, approved, and denied. All of the numbers are from Department of Homeland Security sources.

  Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea
Deportations, 2012 24 17 16
TPS applications 3,056 1,539 1,287
Approvals 1,497 750 439
Denials 178 178 27
Denials as percentage of decided cases 10.6% 19.3% 5.8%

I have no explanation for why the denial rate for Sierra Leone (a former British colony) is three times as high as for Guinea (a former French colony).

The total number of applications shown above are much, much smaller than those we see when DHS creates a TPS situation for people from a Western Hemisphere nation. There are, for example, more than 200,000 El Salvadorans on the TPS rolls (all because of an earthquake that happened 14 years ago). Most, but not all, of them would be in illegal status were it not for TPS.

TPS reminds me of this scenario: There is a fire in the wastebasket in the basement and one can effectively take care of it in one of two ways: by throwing a bucket of water on the wastebasket or by flooding the basement with six feet of water. TPS always uses the second approach.