Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern for Decision of the United States regarding Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

January 19, 2018

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern for the decision by the United States to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of El Salvador, announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on January 8, 2018. TPS for Salvadorans will now terminate on September 9, 2019. The IACHR calls on the United States to regularize the migration status of TPS beneficiaries and other groups of migrants present in the United States for an extended amount of time and who lack a durable solution such as permanent immigration status. The IACHR also urges the United States to reconsider its policy of closing legal avenues for migrants and refugees to reach or remain in a regular migration status in the United States.

Temporary Protected Status is extended to migrants, authorized or unauthorized, who are physically present in the United States as of a certain date, due to conditions in the country of origin that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely (such as ongoing armed conflicts and natural disasters). TPS was granted to Salvadorans after two devastating earthquakes in 2001, and their permits have been justifiably renewed every 18 months since then. Recent estimates indicate that about 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS currently reside in the United States. In recent months, DHS has also announced an end to TPS for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, affecting an additional 50,000 beneficiaries.

The IACHR observes that the majority of TPS beneficiaries have lived in the United States for decades and have developed family, social, and economic ties with the country during that time; a large number of TPS beneficiaries arrived in the US prior to age 16. According to studies available to the IACHR, 89 percent of Salvadoran, Honduran, and Nicaraguan TPS beneficiaries participate in the workforce and 80 percent pay income taxes. Additionally, more than 270,000 US citizen children of TPS beneficiaries would be affected by their parents’ loss of TPS status.

The IACHR does not identify objective reasons to change the solid substantive considerations that for years have justified the continued existence of TPS, and considers the possibility of mass deportation of hundreds of thousands of individuals presented by the end of TPS to be of the utmost seriousness. The deportation of Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries could put the United States’ international human rights obligations at risk.

The Commission also recalls that international best practices indicate that when long-term temporary programs that have resulted in the effective local integration of migrants and refugees are terminated, priority should be given to durable solutions to stabilize their right to a life project.  For example, priority should be given to regularizing the status of beneficiaries with a permanent immigration status, as well as the alternative of creating a process towards the acquisition of citizenship.

In accordance with inter-American standards, the IACHR recalls that any process that may result in the expulsion or deportation of a foreigner must be individual in nature, in order to evaluate the personal circumstances of each individual, including, at minimum, identifying the person and clarifying the particular circumstances of his or her immigration status. Likewise, this proceeding must not discriminate on the basis of nationality, color, race, sex, language, religion, political opinion, social origin or other status, and must observe the minimum guarantees of due process.

Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, stated: “Subjecting TPS beneficiaries to the threat of deportation, stripping them of legal work authorization and uprooting them, disproportionately harms both TPS beneficiaries and their families and communities. This decision creates a serious threat of family separation for tens of thousands of people.” In this respect, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, the IACHR's Country Rapporteur for the United States and for El Salvador, warned:  “Any eventual decision to deport a Salvadoran TPS beneficiary must take into account the strong family and cultural ties they have created in the United States for decades, including impacts on US citizen relatives, as well as their contributions to US society.”

The Commission reiterates that the State’s policy of closing legal avenues to reach or gain status or international protection in the United States unnecessarily jeopardizes the rights of migrants and their families. This policy was elaborated in three Executive Orders on migration and refugee policy issued in January 2017 and has been materialized, inter alia, via the announced end of TPS protections, DACA, the Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee and Parole programs; the broadening of deportation priorities and the increase in immigration detentions; a decrease in the number of refugees accepted by the US; and the policy to build a contiguous physical wall along the US’ Southern border.

In the current context of dialogue between the three branches of government over the future of immigration programs, the IACHR calls on the highest authorities in the United States to address the phenomenon of migration in a manner that promotes the principle of non-discrimination, the fight against xenophobia and respect for the dignity of both migrants and their countries of origin, in accordance with the democratic principles and values enshrined in the Inter-American instruments for the protection of human rights.

The Commission urges the United States to reconsider its decision to end TPS programs and to reinstate them in the short term; and to create regular, safe, accessible and affordable channels for TPS beneficiaries and other migrants to receive permanent, regular migration status. Any such measure enacted should take into consideration factors such as the circumstances under which the migrant entered the United States, the duration of his or her presence in the country, ties to family and community in the country, and contributions to society. In this regard, the Commission reiterates its call to the United States to evaluate durable solutions to ensure permanent regular status and guarantee that the situation of every person, without exception, is analyzed in an individual manner by properly-trained authorities with due guarantees aimed at avoiding discrimination, within the framework of respect for international law.

The IACHR affirms its interest in working with the government of the United States in the quest for solutions that ensure full observance of the human rights of migrants and persons in need of international protection.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 006/18