Having terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in May 2017 and having announced the limited extension of TPS for Haiti and Sudan until January and November 2018, respectively, the Trump Administration has turned its attention to Central America.
Approximately 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are protected from deportation by the TPS program. Hondurans and Nicaraguans were offered TPS protection in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch struck those countries. El Salvadorans received similar protection in 2001 after earthquakes ravaged that country.
TPS for Nicaraguans was set to expire in January 2018. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke concluded that conditions in Nicaragua have improved to the point where the protection is no longer mandated by statute. The Administration believes that conditions in the country are now actually better than they were before the hurricane. In addition, the Nicaraguan government has not requested an extension and apparently is prepared to repatriate its nationals. Accordingly, TPS for the approximately 5,000 covered Nicaraguans will be terminated. The program will be extended until January 2019 to give beneficiaries time either to seek another immigration status in the U.S. or prepare to leave the country.
TPS for Hondurans is set to expire in January 2018, as well. Because Duke did not believe she had enough information to decide regarding Honduran TPS, that benefit will be automatically extended until July 2018, for now.
TPS for El Salvador is set to expire in March 2018 and no decision on extension or termination has been announced.
With each extension, reconsideration is always possible. Therefore, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and their employers may have yet another reprieve. In an attempt to eliminate this ongoing uncertainty, Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) introduced the bi-partisan Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees (ESPERER) Act. ESPERER would allow immigrants who were in the United States and received TPS protection prior to January 13, 2011, to adjust their status to legal permanent resident status.
Employers with TPS individuals on staff should monitor developments in this area and calendar necessary I-9 employment eligibility re-verification for affected individuals to maintain recordkeeping compliance. Due to the complexity of this area of law, employers should always consult with counsel to avoid inadvertently discriminating against affected employees.