Under the Trump Administration, 2019 will see the termination of Temporary Protected Status for more than 300,000 nationals of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, countries that today are overrun by drug cartels and human trafficking rings that operate trans nationally. US employers will lose some of their longest and best workers when TPS for nationals of these countries expire. The same will happen if Mr. Trump’s lawsuit to terminate DACA prevails. A large percentage of people with TPS have been here for over 20 years; many with DACA have been here even longer. They work in critical jobs, they have US Citizen spouses and children, they attend our churches. They also support the same law and order principles as the rest of us do.
It is foolish to think that Trump will change the administration’s decision to end TPS, or terminate the suit to end DACA. However, it is clear that people with TPS or DACA do not threaten us, and that with a 4% national unemployment rate, the economy needs these workers.
The impact of ending TPS and DACA will not stop at the workplace: virtually every person with TPS and DACA will be placed in deportation proceedings, and most if not all will seek asylum under available procedures and laws. Our immigration courts already are overwhelmed with nearly a million cases and backlogs running up to 4 years before a case can be heard on the merits — to add several hundred thousand more cases to that system is unthinkable.
Congress has been largely dysfunctional in the field of immigration for years, so the system runs on a hodgepodge of agency regulations, opinion letters and policy memos. If it acts now, Congress can reassert its long abandoned role as the branch of government that establishes immigration laws and policies. It should create a new visa status for nationals with TPS and DACA, or, more simply, just let their US citizen family members, or their US employers, sponsor them for green cards without making them leave the US. If that seems too generous or politically hasty as a first step, then Congress should transform their current status into a temporary work visa, and, after a reasonable period of time and proof of a clean record, let them be sponsored for green cards without having to leave the US.
TPS and DACA nationals pose no threat to anyone in the US. Their employers need them, their US citizen families need them, and our heritage as a nation of immigrants demands that they (and their employers/families/communities) be treated fairly, with compassion and with common sense. If Congress cares about its constitutional duty to pass effective and reasonable immigration laws, now is the time for Congress to act decisively. If Mr. Trump vetoes such a bill, Congress can and should override the veto, as the Constitution envisions. Otherwise, Congress has enabled Mr. Trump to exert power over an area that Congress legitimately should control and that cries out for long-overdue, reasoned action.
Immigration Law Specialist since 1997
Chapman Law Firm