On March 3, one week after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas designated Ukrainian nationals in the U.S. for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Although most of Mr. Mayorkas’ decisions so far have been wrongheaded and harmful to the country, this move is the right thing to do (so long as it is appropriately administered and isn’t renewed in perpetuity). That’s because TPS was specifically designed to address crises like the Ukraine one. Unfortunately, during the past three decades, TPS has been turned into a rubber-stamped, constantly-renewed amnesty in all but name. Thus, even though it may sometimes be necessary to grant TPS to the citizens of various nations, it must also be reformed to serve its original purpose.
As a recent FAIR blog explains, “In 1990, Congress created TPS to provide non-resident foreign nationals on expiring visas and unlawful migrants protection from removal if their home county was undergoing an armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other life-threatening temporary conditions.”
Ukraine certainly fits the bill. Vladimir Putin’s Russia launched a full-blown military invasion of the country in which the aggressor does not shy away from attacking civilian targets. Three million Ukrainians – mainly women and children – have already fled their country, with 1.8 million and almost half a million going to neighboring Poland and Romania respectively. And many more are likely to escape if the war continues.
The problem is that, if the overall history of TPS is any guide, the designation will likely be renewed in perpetuity long after the 18-month initial deadline and long after hostilities cease (which is, hopefully, soon). For example, Hondurans continue to benefit from TPS more than two decades after the original rationale, a hurricane that happened in late 1998
The reason for this is that the pro-mass-migration lobby has intentionally turned TPS into mini de facto amnesties. After getting an amnesty in 1986, the lobby has been frustrated by its subsequent failures to extract additional large-scale amnesties due to well-justified public opposition. Maintaining TPS designations long after they were necessary reflected the lobby’s view that something was better than nothing and, simultaneously, was a sneaky way to get around Congress and the American people. And the fact that so many TPS beneficiaries have remained in the U.S. for years and decades is, ironically, being used by the advocates of mass migration to justify demands for amnesty. However, such an approach to TPS is a distortion of the program and understandably undermines the public’s trust in it.
Hence, any proper TPS reforms must ensure that – conditions in home countries permitting – deadlines are actual deadlines and that foreign nationals are expected to begin returning home once their TPS designation expires.