According to emails obtained by the Associated Press, the Trump administration is requesting evidence of crimes committed by Haitian immigrants who are currently living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”). While the context of these emails remains unclear, it is likely that the U.S. government will now be looking at the criminal histories of Haitians with TPS to determine whether to extend TPS beyond its fast approaching deadline for renewal on May 23. If the program is not extended, thousands of Haitians living in the United States may be subject to deportation.
Temporary Protected Status is a special legal status in the United States given to immigrants whose home country conditions “temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.” This is a humanitarian status, meant to be a short-term solution that attaches only to nationals whose country is facing particularly dire circumstances such as war or environmental catastrophes. Although recipients of this status enjoy many of the same privileges as those with permanent immigration status, such as work and travel authorization, the United States is under no obligation to renew or extend this type of visa. Naturally, as the deadline for renewal approaches, immigrants with TPS must live with frustrating uncertainty while their future remains undecided.
The request for criminal records of all Haitians living in the United States under TPS is unorthodox and concerning for several reasons. In the past, when deciding whether to extend TPS beyond its original prescribed date, officials have made an objective evaluation as to whether the country conditions have significantly improved to the point that this humanitarian extension is no longer needed. The reason behind this standard is that TPS is meant to be a shield to protect foreign nationals from humanitarian crises beyond their control, not an evaluation of what nationality of immigrants are most deserving of a humanitarian status based on an obscure and subjective merit-based system.
Although there is currently no evidence that the Trump administration has actively sought criminal histories from immigrants with TPS from other countries apart from Haiti, this could open the door to the U.S. government routinely using criminal histories as a factor in deciding whether to extend TPS to any country. This would expose everyone with this status, regardless of nationality, to an increased risk of deportation.
Individuals with TPS should remain vigilant as to the status of their visa and keep up to date with statements made by government officials on the subject. It is also strongly encouraged to seek advice from an immigration attorney as to whether it is possible to qualify under a different, more permanent status. This is especially important for TPS holders because they are more likely to qualify for other humanitarian relief such as T-visas or asylum. If you have any questions about your TPS status or exploring additional options, please contact an attorney at Stilwell & Slatton Immigration. We stay informed of all TPS dates and changes to better represent you.