FACT CHECK: Did Trump Terminate Temporary Protected Status For 98 Percent Of Its Recipients?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York claimed on Twitter that the Trump administration “has terminated Temporary Protected Status for 98% of all current recipients.”

“Turning a blind eye to those in need is un-American and unacceptable. I’m asking @DHSgov to explain their decisions & I’ll keep pushing my bill to #SaveTPS,” she tweeted on Aug. 23.

Verdict: True

The Trump administration has decided to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 98 percent of its recipients. El Salvador, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, Honduras and Sudan have been removed from the list of eligible countries.

Fact Check:

Velázquez, along with nearly 100 other members of Congress, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in August criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS for the majority of its recipients.

“The Trump Administration’s capricious and arbitrary rulings affecting these immigrant families have not only been inhumane, but also raise significant legal concerns,” Velázquez said in a press release. “We intend to find out how Secretary Nielsen is justifying these TPS decisions and hold the agency accountable.”

TPS is a humanitarian program that allows for non-citizens from a given country to remain and work temporarily in the U.S. who would otherwise not have legal grounds to do so. It is occasionally granted to people from a specific country in the midst of natural disaster or armed conflict. Until recently, TPS had been granted to a total of 436,866 people from 10 countries – Haiti, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Nicaragua and South Sudan. These designations date as far back as the 1990s.

TPS for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea expired in May 2017, although some Liberians still receive protection under a program called Deferred Enforced Departure.

TPS is granted to a given country for anywhere from six to 18 months and can be renewed by DHS before this time period expires. In order to maintain their protected status, recipients are required to re-register with the government. It’s been estimated that over 310,000 current TPS recipients would re-register for protected status.

The Trump administration has indeed terminated TPS for 98 percent of its recipients, according to information compiled by the Congressional Research Service. Protected status for people from Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan has been terminated. It should be noted, however, that these people have a given period of time, some over a year, before their protected status officially expires.

The Trump administration has extended TPS for people from Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

As of October 2017, Salvadorans were the largest beneficiaries of the program with over 260,000 recipients. The country was originally added to the list in 2001 after it was devastated by a pair of deadly earthquakes. (RELATED: Did 200,000 Salvadorans With Temporary Protected Status Flee Natural Disaster?)

The decision to end the status came after officials concluded that the disaster-related conditions in the country had subsided. “The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist,” reads a DHS press release.

The TPS designation for El Salvador officially terminates on Sept. 9, 2019.

DHS released a similar statement in regards to Haiti, the third largest TPS population. “Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent,” it said. “Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens.”

Trump administration officials expressed similar sentiments in regards to the other countries removed from the list, suggesting that the amount of time elapsed since the initial disaster paired with perceived improvements on the ground negates the necessity for special protection.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen implied that TPS has been wrongfully utilized as a permanent solution. This train of thought was echoed by groups that advocate for lower levels of immigration.

“We need to put the ‘T’ back into T.P.S.,” Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, told The New York Times. “It has to be temporary. This has gone on far too long.”

Many have pushed back against the move, arguing that the majority of TPS recipients have become integrated into the culture and economy of the U.S.

The Center for Migration Studies (CMS), a New York-based think tank, conducted a comprehensive study of TPS recipients from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras that found most had established deep roots in the country. The study found that the labor force participation rate of the TPS population from those three countries was between 81 and 88 percent, whereas the national average is about 63 percent.

“This statistical portrait of TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti reveals hardworking populations with strong family and other ties to the United States,” read the study. “In addition, high percentages have lived in the United States for 20 years or more, arrived as children, and have US citizen children.”

CMS has recommended that long-term TPS recipients be given a path to citizenship.

Others have contended that the situation in these countries, while improved, is still far from good. “There is nothing to go back to in El Salvador,” Veronica Lagunas, a Salvadoran woman who lives in the U.S. under the protection of TPS, told the Times. “The infrastructure may be better now, but the country is in no condition to receive us.”

Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén pleaded with Nielsen to rethink the termination of TPS ahead of the decision for El Salvador. Some contend that TPS countries like El Salvador are ill-equipped to deal with an influx of returning citizens.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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