On October 26, 2017, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, Hondurans and Salvadorans, and to work with Congress to create a path to permanent status for these individuals.
Congress created TPS to allow foreign-born individuals already in the U.S. when natural disasters strike or civil conflict escalates in their home countries to apply to stay and work legally in the U.S., until our government determines they can return. TPS is normally granted and extended in 12 or 18-month increments.
Some countries received their TPS designations years ago, and their citizens have received multiple extensions of TPS because their countries could not reabsorb them without significant economic destabilization or due to ongoing wars. In early 2018, four of those countries’ TPS extensions will expire if not renewed by the Department of Homeland Security. These include:
- Honduras: TPS has been in effect since 1999 and the current extension will expire January 5, 2018. Approximately 57,000 Hondurans have TPS.
- Nicaragua: Same as Honduras, except only about 3000 Nicaraguans have TPS.
- El Salvador: TPS has been in effect since 2001 and the current extension will expire March 9, 2018. Approximately 195,000 Salvadorans have TPS.
- Haiti: TPS has been in effect since 2010, and the current extension will expire January 22, 2018. Approximately 50,000 Haitians have TPS.
According to a July 2017 report by the Center for Migration Studies, over half of Salvadoran and Honduran TPS holders have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. A majority of Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS holders are parents to a collective total of more than 273,000 U.S. citizen children. Well over 80% of these TPS recipients are in the workforce, surpassing the rate of 63% for the U.S. native-born population. They are also our neighbors, our friends, our volunteers, and are integral members of our communities.
Ending TPS for Haitian, Honduran, and Salvadoran TPS holders will result in over 300,000 people exiting our labor force. As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce points out in its letter, nationwide, high numbers of TPS holders work in construction, food processing, hospitality, and home healthcare.
Maine has many TPS recipients, particularly from El Salvador and Honduras, who are indeed working in the sectors mentioned above, and who have a strong presence on Maine’s farms as well. Losing these individuals from our Maine communities and workforce will leave employers scrambling to find replacements in an already tight labor market, and will retard growth.
These individuals have been integral parts of our communities for nearly 20 years or more. Their TPS status should be extended, and Congress should work to create a path for them to gain permanent residency.