U.S. Announces What May Be the World’s Tiniest Re-Amnesty for 20 Aliens

By David North on September 3, 2014

On September 2, USCIS announced what may be the world’s smallest re-amnesty.

A "re-amnesty" is the extension of a previous amnesty, giving the beneficiaries more-or-less legal status in the United States. The technical term is TPS, for Temporary Protected Status.

This program will cover a small number of once-illegal aliens from the new, and troubled, nation of South Sudan, the non-Muslim breakaway section of Sudan which achieved independence in 2011.

And how many lucky beneficiaries will there be?

To quote the ever-lucid prose of USCIS:

There are approximately less than 20 current South Sudan TPS beneficiaries who are expected to apply for re-registration and may be eligible to retain their TPS under the extension.

This is a hard fact to find, but it is from the September 2 Federal Register.

What we have here is another story of a tiny population singled out for special attention. Other such tiny groups we have written about include the abused step-parents of U.S. citizens, and those Japanese migrants in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who were rich enough to be defined as investors, but too poor to pay an immigration fee.

What we almost have here is a case of "what if they gave an amnesty and no one came?"

South Sudan is a nation with a population of 10 million involved in a nasty civil war between two rival ethnic groups. It is landlocked and surrounded by six other central African nations, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, some of which have their own civil wars. It is extremely poor and its institutions are weak. There are lots of good reasons for a citizen of South Sudan not to want to go back if that person had escaped to the West.

While the motivations to leave South Sudan are great, not many of its citizens have managed to get to the United States, and those who are here are apparently not very interested in moving from illegal or nonimmigrant status to TPS, even though they can work legally at any job they can get while they have TPS.

So, of South Sudan’s 10 million-plus embattled citizens, "approximately less than 20" have secured TPS, and some of them may not bother applying for another round. You might say that it is an amnesty that failed. This despite the fact, as Mark Krikorian has long noted, that nothing is more permanent than temporary protected status.

Back in 2011 when TPS was first offered specifically to migrants from South Sudan, USCIS estimated that some fraction of the 340 people registered for a Sudan-based TPS would apply for the new South Sudan TPS as the Federal Register reported at the time. It turned out to be a very small fraction.

TPS re-enrollments are usually restricted to people who already have that status, but this one is different. Anyone from South Sudan who was in the country on September 2 can apply for what might be called an instant amnesty; the agency thinks that maybe 300 to 500 people will apply, despite the fact that they do not currently have TPS.

Will that double the enrollment to 40?

My sense is that the tiny turnout for the South Sudanese TPS is based on three factors: 1) there are not many of them here; 2) interior enforcement of the INA is so lax no one fears it, so there is little motivation to seek TPS; and 3) the re-up fees, which can be as much as $465, tend to discourage applications.

Meanwhile, a lot of work goes into these rulings for small populations. Some luckless staffer had to prepare the 7,998-word document for the Federal Register, someone else the much shorter USCIS website announcement, and still someone else a press release. The printout of the Federal Register announcement consumed 12 pages from my printer, and must have taken up scores of thousands of pages in the hard copy of the publication. In short, lots of needless ink and paper.

Wouldn't it have been easier for DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, or one of his aides, to simply sign 20 post-card-sized notices for the TPS beneficiaries to carry, each saying: "To any DHS officer who encounters the South Sudanese national whose photo is on this note: unless this person is guilty of a really serious crime, deportation is not in order."

But government does not work that way.