Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Updates: Court Orders and TPS Extensions

March 12, 2019Court Case Retains TPS for Hondurans and Nepalese, for Now

On March 12, 2019, a federal court issued an order in Bhattarai et al. v. Nielsen, staying proceedings challenging the legality of the administration’s termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras and Nepal.   This is a temporary reprieve for  individuals from those countries who would lose their ability to live and work legally in the U.S. when their TPS ended on June 24, 2019 (Nepal) and January 5, 2020 (Honduras).

Last October, the same court  enjoined the administration from carrying out its planned termination of TPS for citizens from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan in the Ramos v. Nielsen lawsuit.  The government’s appeal of that decision is still pending.

In the Bhattarai case, the administration and the plaintiffs agreed the case was so similar to the Ramos litigation that it made sense to agree to hold the case in abeyance  during the Ramos appeal.   In the stipulation, the administration agreed to treat the class of Honduran and Nepalese plaintiffs in the same way as it was ordered to treat the plaintiffs in the Ramos case.

As a result, until the Ramos case is finally resolved, TPS for eligible Hondurans and Nepalese will continue, and the administration will extend their work permits via notices in the Federal Register if their current ones expire during the ongoing litigation.

However, the best resolution for those with TPS would be passage of H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019which would provide many of them with a path to permanent legal status.   Hondurans have had TPS for twenty years, and Salvadorans for eighteen, during which time they have been working, paying taxes, having families, buying homes, and becoming solidly rooted members of our communities.   It makes sense from a humanitarian and an economic perspective to open a door through which long-term TPS holders can become permanent residents, and eventually full citizens of this country that is already their home.

March 8, 2019 TPS Extended for South Sudan

The administration has announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) through November 2, 2020 for South Sudanese who currently have TPS or who meet the narrow eligibility criteria to apply despite having missed a prior re-registration or the initial registration period .

The timeframe for applying to re-register has not yet been announced.

March 1, 2019Government Complies with Court Order for El Salvadoran, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese TPS holders

In compliance with an October 3, 2018 injunction in Ramos v. Nielson, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it is extending through January 2, 2020  the validity of work permits and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) authorization for those with TPS  from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.

TPS holders from these four countries will not have to re-register for TPS to benefit from the extension, as long as they continue to be eligible for TPS and they reregistered during the most recent re-registration period for their respective countries.  Further details are explained on this USCIS page.

Maine has many TPS holders from these countries who have long been members of our communities and workforce.  This a welcome reprieve not only for the affected individuals with TPS but also for their families, friends,  and employers.


Congress Introduces H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019

On March 12, 2019, H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, was introduced in the House of Representatives, with 202 original co-sponsors, including Maine’s Representative Chellie Pingree.

H.R. 6 would provide a path to permanent residency for the over 1 million immigrants who have legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs who are on the cusp of losing their status, but for court decisions blocking the administration’s termination of DACA and of TPS for El Salvadorans, Haitians, Hondurans, Nepalese, Nicaraguans, and Sudanese.

H.R. 6 would also provide a path to residency for immigrant youth who have been unable to apply for DACA since the program was terminated, and benefit similarly situated persons who have long lived legally in the U.S. and put down roots here, but who lack a path to full permanent status under current law.  Gaining a path to permanent residency would enable them to continue studying, working, serving in the U.S. military, and contributing to their communities.

This bill would not only benefit the eligible individuals, but also the U.S. economy.  This is why business leaders, including CEOs of leading national corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have urged Congress to act to provide a path to permanent residency for those with DACA and TPS.  Polls have shown strong majorities of the general public also support providing DACA and TPS holders with  permanent status.

Both of Maine’s Senators worked last year with a bipartisan coalition to provide a path to permanent residency for those with DACA, and TPS holders contribute similarly to our communities and workforce.  Ultimately, without the administration’s buy-in, the plan was not enacted.  Hopefully the entire Maine delegation will try to get the Dream and Promise Act over the finish line in 2019.

You can find a summary of what the bill includes here.

USCIS Overseas Office Closures Will Hurt U.S. Citizens and Military Service Members Abroad

In his State of the Union address on February 5, 2019, President Trump proclaimed his strong support for legal immigration.  Yet the administration continues to take steps to restrict and make legal immigration increasingly difficult.

In its most recent action, on March 12, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will close its overseas offices, reportedly to boost efforts reduce backlogs at its U.S. offices.

USCIS’s overseas offices mainly process visa petitions filed by U.S. citizens living and working abroad who are petitioning for the residency of their immediate family members prior to returning to the U.S.  They process citizenship applications by immigrants serving in the U.S. military, and by their spouses and children living abroad.  USCIS overseas offices also help U.S. citizens seeking to adopt children internationally.    Staff of USCIS offices abroad assist as well with refugee processing, including of immediate family members of refugees already resettled in the U.S.

Once those overseas offices close, U.S. citizens and military personnel living and working abroad are likely to have to mail their applications to USCIS offices in the U.S., where they will add to the backlog.   Significant delays and complications for U.S. citizens and service members planning to move back to the U.S. with their immigrant family members will result.

USCIS’s decision to close its overseas offices continues the administration’s trend against legal immigration, particularly targeting immediate family immigration, reflected in a  37% increase in denials of applications decided by USCIS in the first 9 months of FY 2018 , and a 39% increase in immigrant visa denials by the State Department in FY 2018 compared to the prior year.

With the country’s aging population, low birthrates, and low unemployment, the U.S. should be putting out the welcome mat, not shutting its doors.   The decision to close USCIS’s overseas offices is a step in the wrong direction.



Second Federal Court Blocks Citizenship Question on Census 2020

On March 6, 2019, a federal court in California enjoined the Department of Commerce from adding a question about citizenship status on the 2020 decennial census.

As we’ve written previously, the decennial census is designed to count all persons residing in the U.S. regardless of their legal status.  An undercount can impact apportionment of federal funding, as well as the number of a state’s representatives in Congress.

As a practical matter, the California federal court’s decision has little effect.  A prior decision by a federal court in New York had already blocked the addition of the citizenship question to the Census 2020 questionnaire.  That decision has  been accepted for review by the Supreme Court, and oral arguments will be heard in April, 2019.

Congress Presses Administration to Quickly Act to Increase FY 2019 H-2B Visas

As noted in this prior MeBIC post, the omnibus spending bill that averted a government shutdown included a provision to allow issuance of up to 135,320 H-2B non-agricultural seasonal work visas for FY 2019, a more than 69,000 increase in visas over the usual 66,000 annual cap.

This same fix has been included in spending bills in FY 2017 and FY 2018, and in each of those years, only 15,000 additional H-2B visas were made available by DHS, and too late in the year for employers to truly benefit from them.

Members of Congress have now appealed to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to issue the full 69,320 additional visas without delay, so that they can be used by businesses in Maine and elsewhere  who need to add staff from April 1st through the end of FY 2019 to meet their seasonal labor needs.

Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King  were joined by a bipartisan group of senators in a March 1, 2019 letter, and Senator Collins and Representative Chellie Pingree, along with 136 other Senators and members of Congress, signed a March 4, 2019 appeal urging the Department of Homeland Security to act without delay so that businesses will not one once again be economically harmed by a “too little, too late” authorization of additional H-2B visas.