The Trump administration reversed itself last week and reinstated TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for nationals from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras. According to an account in TIME magazine, the decision was a victory for career diplomats over administration insiders. But the TIME discussion of the issue muddies the waters by failing to fully explain the issue.
The magazine depicts a battle between administration officials who saw the issue as integral to the crackdown on illegal immigration, and U.S. diplomats who argued that ending TPS and sending the hundreds of thousands of aliens home would destabilize their homelands. The former won the argument and the administration announced, in 2017, the termination of the protected status with a one-year grace period for the aliens to leave.
But, as has happened regularly for administration immigration initiatives, the move was immediately challenged in court and it is not yet resolved. That, rather than the arguments of the diplomats explains why the TPS has now been extended again for a year.
Missing in the TIME account is an explanation that when TPS is removed, the aliens covered by it simply revert to their previous status, which in almost all cases means rejoining the millions of aliens residing illegally in the country. Nevertheless, the government does not have the resources to detain and deport such a large cohort of people precipitously. It is more realistic to view what could happen with the end of TPS as the start of a lengthy process of winnowing them over an extended period.
The real collateral issues are the impact on the local economy of the three countries if the transfer of remittances sent by the aliens back to their homelands diminishes, and the public relations offensive by advocacy groups focusing on the impact that revoking TPS will have on the aliens’ U.S.-born children. These are not legal issues, but they constitute a political battleground that will continue to trouble efforts to effectively get control over illegal immigration.