Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Union-backed “Temporary Protected Status” bill introduced

Today, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the “Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency” (SECURE) Act (S. 2144), which would grant qualified Temporary Protected Status recipients the opportunity to apply for legal permanent residency.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigration status, granted to affected nationals who are temporarily unable to safely return from the United States to their country of origin due to factors such as natural disasters, armed conflicts, epidemic, or other extraordinary circumstances. Currently, there are approximately 437,000 people with TPS in the United States from ten designated countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. TPS status is granted for set periods ranging from six to 18 months, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to extend a country’s status on a recurring basis. Every time a country is recertified, recipients must reapply and pass a thorough background check.

“For decades, our country has welcomed and protected immigrants fleeing violence and turmoil around the world,” said Senator Van Hollen. “These men and women have lived here legally for years – they have jobs and businesses and are our neighbors. We cannot in good faith send them back to some of the most dangerous places in the world. I urge my colleagues to pass this legislation, and give these families certainty and security.”

The SECURE Act joins a number of other TPS bills already being considered in Congress, including the American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253), introduced earlier this month by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

Both bills will be championed by the new labor campaign “Working Families United,” formed through a partnership between five unions – UNITE HERE, IUPAT, Bricklayers, UFCW and the Ironworkers, all backed by the AFL-CIO. The campaign will fight to preserve this humanitarian relief program, which helps tens of thousands of union workers in hospitality, construction, and trades who would lose their legal worker status if TPS is not renewed.

The TPS program has been under fire in this Administration. TPS for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone expired in May, while Haiti’s TPS was extended for six months and set to be discussed again next week. In September, the Department of Homeland Security acting-Secretary, Elaine Duke, announced plans to terminate Sudan’s designation while extending South Sudan’s. Earlier this month, Duke announced the planned termination of TPS for recipients born in Nicaragua and refused to commit to protecting Honduran TPS beyond July 2018. Additional decisions are expected in January for El Salvador.

Senators Reed (D-RI), Hirono (D-HI), Gillibrand (D-NY), Markey (MA), Harris (D-CA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Warren (D-MA) all cosponsored the SECURE Act.

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