“A friend in need,” my mother explained, “is a friend indeed.”
I was taught to offer a helping hand to others when they are going through rough times. Unfortunately, such sentiments are not shared by all.
Especially when it comes to immigrants.
As part of the global community, the United States has long promoted itself as defender of the politically downtrodden and desperate.
Yet, over the past few decades, Americans have demonstrated an increasing disregard for those suffering abroad.
Recently, even Temporary Protected Status, created as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, has come under attack by critics.
So what is TPS?
Temporary Protected Status is a program that provides immigrants with a temporary safe haven in the U. S. if they are unable to safely return to their home country due to an environmental disaster, war, or other severe temporary conditions.
The most recent countries designated for TPS status have been Haiti and Syria.
TPS For Haitians: The Effects Of A Natural Disaster
In some instances, TPS is warranted due to natural disasters and unsafe environmental conditions.
On January 12, 2010, the country was devastated by a massive earthquake.
Haitians in the United States did not elude the misery.
Although they were fortunate to escape the physical destruction to their homeland, many lost family members and close friends.
For several days, if not weeks, those living in the U.S. did not know the fate of loved ones. Homes and communities were destroyed.
As the place they called home struggled with survival, they were unable to return home.
Finally, on January 15, 2010, the government announced that TPS protections were being extended for citizens of Haiti.
The Haitian TPS status continues today, in part due to the follow up chaos caused by Hurricane Sandy while Haiti was still trying to recover from the effects of the 2010 earthquake.
TPS For Syrians: The Impact Of Civil War
TPS status was granted for Syria due to widespread civil conflict and violence.
In early 2011, a growing political movement called upon the country’s president to institute democratic reforms.
Instead, security forces cracked down on children who had written anti-regime slogans on public walls.
Within the next two weeks, protests spread throughout Syria.
As violence escalated, the protests grew larger. Over 9,000 civilians were killed. Thousands more were physically injured.
The government began to arbitrarily arrest civilians, many of whom were tortured while detained.
The uprising turned into a full blown insurgency, with daily battles between government troops and opposition forces.
On March 29, 2012, the U.S. granted Temporary Protected Status for Syrians, fearing for their safety if they returned home.
Critics Assail TPS Benefits For Immigrants
As noted above, the Temporary Protected Status program is not without critics.
In their view, TPS is equivalent to amnesty.
Led by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a non-profit organization which supports immigration reduction, opponents claim granting artificial benefits to Haitians, Syrians, and immigrants from six other countries is not an appropriate response to natural disasters or civil strife abroad.
Rather, CIS suggests the U.S. government should simply freeze the immigration status of those from the affected nations who currently live here.
Mark Krikorian, the Center’s Director, argues the Temporary Protected Status program has given “Hundreds of thousands of people . . . a sometimes decade-or-longer de facto amnesty as a result of civil strife, or a big wind, or an earthquake in their home country.”
As a result, opponents assert TPS should be shut down.
A Policy Of Compassion, A Politics Of Humanitiarism
Krikorian is right about the duration of some TPS designations.
But he is wrong about TPS being a form of amnesty.
It is impossible to control how long a environmental disaster or civil war will last.
Moreover, the U.S. government reviews each designation every 18 months. When conditions have changed sufficiently enough, Temporary Protected Status is not renewed.
Unless the affected immigrants have another route to legalizing their status, they are placed back in the same immigration status they held prior to the approval of TPS protections. For some, this means facing deportation charges at immigration court.
To put it bluntly, TPS opponents’ use of the term amnesty is misplaced.
Amnesty reflects an act of permanent forgiveness for past transgressions – not an act of temporary assistance for individuals mired in human misery.
Under TPS, immigrants from the designated countries can live and work legally in the U.S. for intervals of 18 months. Nothing more.
There is no path to legalization. There are no guaranteed rewards for TPS beneficiaries.
In other words, Temporary Protected Status is based on a policy of compassion, not callousness – on a politics of humanitarianism, not amnesty.