Temporary Actually Does Mean “Not Permanent”

The Los Angeles Times recently published two op-ed pieces that advance the same tired arguments that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was never really temporary.

One writer asserts that “temporary” is an imprecise term and the plight of Salvadoran TPS-holders provides, “an excellent opportunity to revise the laws that have created our current chaotic [immigration]mess.” The other claims that, “it is unfair to retroactively impose “temporariness” on people who have been permitted to remain in the U.S. with documentation for 17 years.”

First off, temporary is one of the least vague terms in the English language. Black’s Law Dictionary defines it succinctly as, “That which is to last for a limited time only, as distinguished from that which is perpetual, or indefinite, in its duration. The opposite of permanent.”

The problem with TPS arises not from any ambiguity in the authorizing statue. Any confusion is the direct result of successive presidents refusing to tell those who received temporary refuge from the United States that it is time to go home. The fact is, most administrations believed that it would “look bad” to send TPS recipients back to their countries of origin.

They were mistaken. What looks bad to the American public is putting the interests of foreigners before those of U.S. citizens. Middle America sees TPS as another immigration bait-and-switch and it wants to see our government sprout some backbone when it comes to maintaining the integrity of our borders. Voters elected Donald Trump largely because he promised to enforce our immigration laws, as written

Our “current chaotic immigration mess” stems from the tendency to use immigration enforcement as tool for garnering political favor – instead of recognizing it as an expression of the political will of the American people. The solution isn’t a revision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Rather, the answer lies in using existing authorities to clean up the mess. While that may be obvious to most Americans, it apparently hadn’t occurred to any politician prior to Donald Trump.

Finally, claims that it is unfair to cancel TPS after so long are as silly as they are inaccurate. These assertions rest on the argument that as time passes, foreigners “develop ties” to the United States and those ties give them a legally protected claim to remain in the United States. That’s bunk. If your neighbor borrows your new car and refuses to give it back because he has grown very attached to it, you don’t simply let him keep it. You report him to the police and call him what he is, a thief. The American public understands this intuitively, even though politicians don’t.

If elected leaders won’t start listening to their voting constituents on immigration issues, they’re going to get a lesson on just how temporary political careers can be. And the electorate will send them back to their home states without any regard for the ties they may have developed to Washington, D.C.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    All the people who have TPS who have been successful in the US should take that success and knowledge back to their home countries, be an example, and create real change. This is the only way to change what is wrong in so many countries. It’s just a fact we cannot save all those people residing in countries filled with corruption and poverty. We have been throwing money at them for numerous decades. Nothing changes except the bank account of their rulers.

  2. avatar

    Yahn ulma They don’t want to go back because they would be required to do something besides beg to survive and their fat stupid bums skimming the fat off an ignorant USA

  3. avatar

    Let the dem support them we lose billions every year because smart folks will do anything they can not to support this lunacy including myself go home while your health allows you to …….get them trump ! best president ever ????????

  4. avatar

    Somewhere there must be a law allowing citizens to protect the borders from forgien invaders!!! let’s find it and allow citizens to shoot illegals ….problem solved ??????I have lots of ammo saved for such an occasion and would love to secure our borders from brain dead frijoles ??????all of you

  5. avatar

    I am utterly puzzled why Hispanics are so bent on staying in the US, even though they hate our president! What about THEIR presidents THEY elected in free democratic elections back home, where-ever it is? Why are they demonstrating and waiving their Mexican flags in MY country? I don’t see the Canadians CONSTANTLY causing friction here in order to get better treatment than they receive from their government THEY THEMSELVES elected in Canada. Neither the Europeans are notoriously overstaying their time allowed here. and they don’t even need any visa! So what gives?! Am I to understand that the Hispanics can’t take care of themselves because they are inferior to white people?! Really?! Or are they just plain lazy to roll up their sleeves and put in the necessary hard work to reform their country. You know what they say, “Where is a will, there IS a way”! Sure, strong PATRIOTIC will must be there first, something the lazy ones NOTORIOUSLY lack!

    • avatar

      Actually, there are a ton of Canadians here, as well as Europeans (esp Brits and Irish) illegally. Also a ton of Indians, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese. They just don’t make a big deal out of it like the Mexicans do.