What is Temporary Protected Status?
We know that in cases of asylum, people fleeing their home country to avoid oppression, danger, reprisal against them if they are returned, or severe hardship, have a pathway to come to America and stay here, at least temporarily. However in many cases, an immigrant’s home country is not permanently dangerous, but temporary conditions have made the immigrant’s country unsafe to return to.
An immigrant coming to America for the purpose of fleeing a temporarily unsafe condition can apply for temporary protected status (TPS). The status applies to any immigrant who is fleeing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or temporary conditions that are said to be “extraordinary.”
Many Bahamians, having recently been devastated by Hurricane Dorian, are fleeing the island to come to America, in hopes of receiving TPS. An environmental disaster, as defined by immigration law, does include a natural disaster such as a hurricane, so long as the home country cannot handle the return of its people. Given the Bahama’s current state that would appear to be obvious.
The third category, extraordinary and temporary conditions, is like a “catch-all” provision, and applies where a condition exists in a foreign country that prevents people from safely returning to their country. Bahamians may also qualify under this provision.
What the Status Provides and How Long it Lasts
TPS status usually lasts for between 6 to 18 months, and designating a country’s residents as having TPS status is usually done by the Secretary of Homeland Security upon consultation with other government agents. Currently, 10 countries have TPS status. The government can, at any time, opt to end a country’s status on the TPS list, although some countries have been on the list for many years.
Someone in America on TPS status does not have a path to citizenship under the TPS program, but may have one if they otherwise qualify under another existing immigration program. People in the country under TPS status are provided a work permit, and are allowed to come and go from the country as they please.
Even those who originally entered the country illegally can remain here if, while they were here, their home country was placed on the TPS list.
Government Not Providing Status to Bahamians
The government has now said that it is hesitant to provide TPS status to Bahamians. That decision is meeting a good deal of criticism. After all, the hurricane decimated homes, hospitals, infrastructure, and crippled the entire island. Many Bahamians have no way to make a living, and it is estimated that over 70,000 people are homeless.
The U.S. has, in the past, provided TPS status to those fleeing natural disaster, including the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
However, Bahamians with the correct documentation can still enter the U.S. as they normally would. Whether Bahamians actually have those documents, with their homes and property being in shambles after the storm, remains to be seen.
There are programs in place to assist those coming to America to flee danger or oppression. Contact the Palm Beach County immigration attorneys at Devore Law Group to help you with your immigration questions.