Democrats Want Protection From Deportation, Jobs for Migrants From These Four Countries

Thirty-three Democratic senators signed a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas calling for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador and to extend a new designation to Guatemala.

Through TPS, eligible individuals entering the United States from those countries would receive a guarantee that they cannot be deported from the country and would also become eligible for an employment authorization document and travel authorization.

Dating back to last January, over 800,000 migrants from the four countries have come in contact with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the southwest border.

These four countries, with a combined population of nearly 40 million, significantly outnumbered the number of Mexican citizens at the border. Mexico, which has a population of nearly 129 million, saw over 650,000 Mexican citizens come to the border during that same time frame.

Human rights organizations and scholars often point to the severe economic circumstances in the four countries, as well as the issues of climate change and gang violence, as the reasons for the significant migration numbers. As reported by Newsweek, these factors have been amplified by COVID-19. The senators echoed these sentiments in their January 10 letter:

"It is our assessment that the severe damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes just over one year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions, and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, warrant such an action by the Administration," the lawmakers wrote.

"The crisis in Central America is urgent...TPS designations and redesignations would provide critical protections for eligible beneficiaries and enable them to support basic needs of loved ones back home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration," the letter continued.

Millions have crossed the southern border into the U.S. seeking asylum from dangerous conditions in their home countries. Above, a father and son from Honduras kneel as they pray during a migrant demonstration demanding clearer United States migration policies, at San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Mexico on March 2, 2021. Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

TPS applies to individuals who are already "physically present" in the United States "since the effective date of the most recent designation date of your country." It does not provide a pathway for permanent residence or citizenship; however, those living in the U.S. under the program may apply for those statuses.

In August, the Biden administration extended the status to individuals from Haiti. Despite this, Oxfam America stated that this has not stopped the administration from expelling Haitians back to their home countries under the Title 42 public health policy.

Title 42, which was implemented by the Trump administration and has continued under President Joe Biden, says that individuals coming from a country that faces the presence of a "communicable disease" may be prohibited from entering the United States.

Human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have bashed the policy, saying that prevents migrants with valid asylum claims from presenting their case to the United States. The ACLU writes that the U.S. "has the resources to safely process people seeking protection," making the policy unnecessary. It is unclear how the policy could be implemented if TPS designation were offered to these four countries. The ACLU remains committed to appealing the rule.

"If the Biden administration really wants to treat asylum seekers humanely, it should end this lawless policy now and withdraw its appeal. We will continue fighting to end this illegal policy," ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, the lead lawyer in the Title 42 challenge, said in reaction to a September 30 appellate court ruling that allowed the policy to remain in place.

A spokesperson for the State Department told Newsweek they refer to the Department of Homeland Security on the matter, given their role in overseeing TPS designations.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told Newsweek that DHS responds to congressional correspondence through official channels.