Immigrants in Limbo

Suppose the following scenario.

You’re native country has just been devasted by a natural disaster or civil war. Your home has been destroyed, your job is gone, and infrastructure and basic utilities are in disarray. 

The United States offers you to come and live in there due to the all but unihabitable environment of your home country. However what they offer you is not exactly a refugee status.

Instead they’ll let you have a Temporary Protection Status (TPS) which means you’ll get to live here, work here, and well do anything that a refugee or any other green card migrant can do but you’re not guaranteed to stay here permanently.

That is the situation tens of thousands of immigrants from Central America (Hobdiras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador) and Haiti are facing right now.

The DHS will announce on Monday November 6, whether or not to extend TPS status and for how long.

Hondurans and Nicaraguans are the longest holders of TPS. Refugees came here after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the small nations in 1999. 

That about 20 years of living in the United States, settling down, integrating into local communities, and having American children.

TPS is also no free lunch. They of course have to pay their fair share of taxes like any other citizen or resident of the United States. 

However all TPS holders can not receive public assistance since federal law immigration laws only allow permanent immigrants to be beneficiaries. There’s also renewal fees that are paid every 18 months which sum up to $625.00 per applicant.

Lastly, there is no direct route for a TPS holder to apply for permanent residency. Instead they must either:

  • Leave the country and lose their protected and apply through a virtually impossible path to a green card.
  • Marry an American citizen
  • Have a child who is at least 21 years old.

Economic Impact of TPS Migrants

study from the Center of Migration Studies gives a demographic snapshot of TPS holders.

The labor force participation rate of the TPS population from Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti ranges from 81 to 88 percent, well above the total US rate (63 percent) and the foreign-born population (66 percent).

The unemployment rate for each is 4 percent, 5 percent, and 10 percent. The average income for each is $40,000, $50,000, and $45,000 respectively. 

Roughly 30 percent of TPS beneficiaries have mortgages. 

And according to an April 2017 Immigrant Legal Resource Center report, ending the program would mean a $45.2 billion reduction in GDP over a decade and cost taxpayers more than $3 billion.


Leaders of TPS beneficiary nations have plead for the Trump adminstration to extend the TPS program. They argue that their home countries are not in a position to sustain a massive influx of people with current poor state of their economies, crime-safety, and infrastructure.

These countries heavily rely on TPS beneficiaries for their domestic economy. 18 percent of Honduras GDP, for instance, comes from remittances. For Haiti, that number is much higher at nearly 30 percent.

A sudden collapse in a large portion of the economy would surely destabilize these countries and, counterintuitively to Trumps intentions, encourage more (illegal) migration to the United States.

Right now Republic Representative from Florida, Carlos Curbelo, is introducing the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees (ESPERER) Act, which would give permanent residency to Central American and Haitan TPS holders.

The continued short-term extensions of TPS have created anxiety and uncertainty not only for these migrants and their families, but also for their employers and neighbors whose prosperity also depends on them. While I will continue to support extensions for Temporary Protected Status, this bipartisan legislation would give these migrants the peace of mind to continue giving back to their communities, contributing to our economy and supporting their families

– Rep. Curbelo (R-FL)

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