Immigration Agency Backlog Puts Thousands of TPS Recipients at Risk for Deportation 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2022
CONTACT: 
Elyssa Pachico  | +1 503 347 23 29 | [email protected] 
Myneilles Negron | +1 703 585 6727 | [email protected]

 

In a letter to the Biden administration, 125 organizations asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to more efficiently process the backlog of applicants for the humanitarian Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. TPS allows over 400,000 people to live and work in the United States, but because of the delay in processing applications, this puts people at risk of having their work permits expire and their protection against deportation run out before receiving a response from USCIS. 

“TPS recipients like me can do everything by the book in terms of sending through our applications in a timely way, but because of delays in USCIS, we end up losing our right to work and to support our families,” said Yanira Arias, national campaigns manager for Alianza Americas, an advocacy group that helped coordinate the letter, and a TPS beneficiary from El Salvador. “Congress needs to provide USCIS with the support it needs to tackle this backlog.”

 

The letter notes that 90 percent of the total backlog is made up of applications from Venezuelans and Haitians living in the United States. On average, it takes 15.5 months and 12.5 months to process applications by Venezuelans and Haitians respectively; even though the total grant period for TPS protections for these countries is 18 months.

 

“These delays… make the TPS designations functionally meaningless if people cannot work and are unable to access the legal protections associated with TPS, including protection from deportation,” the letter said. 

 

USCIS can improve these protracted wait times by assigning additional staff to process the backlog, waiving fees for online applications (which streamlines the process), and allowing for the automatic extension of work permits every time TPS protections are officially redesignated, the letter said. 

 

“While USCIS has made progress toward alleviating the burden of the backlog across applications, these delays are especially dire for TPS holders due to the short grant period. USCIS committed to addressing these issues in its latest fiscal year progress report, and we are hopeful that those commitments will be upheld over this next year,” said Lora Adams, campaign coordinator for the TPS-DED Administrative Advocacy Coalition.

 

While the need to support USCIS in extending these humanitarian protections is crucial, Congress must ultimately deliver on providing a long-term solution to TPS beneficiaries so they can live and work permanently in the United States. That way, they are not living in constant uncertainty every time TPS protections reach their expiration date. 

 

“I have been waiting for my TPS application to be granted for several months now after my application was submitted. As the days go by, I only get more worried about the small amount of time I will have to actually enjoy this relief,” said Terence Chie, a community organizer at Cameroon Advocacy Network

 

“Tackling the backlog at USCIS will make a massive difference in my life and the lives of people eligible for TPS. This much-needed TPS protection will allow vulnerable communities live without fear, work and live dignified lives. However, we need Congress to deliver on immigration reform that secures permanent protection, taking into consideration how it impacts Black immigrants and their families.” said Daniel Tse of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “The current TPS designations for Cameroon, Haiti and others will only make sense if those qualified can actually utilize for a reasonable time the benefits and protections attached to TPS.” 

 

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Alianza Americas is the premier transnational advocacy network of Latin American migrant-led organizations working in the United States, across the Americas, and globally to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life for communities across North, Central and South America. In 2022, Alianza integrated with Presente.org, establishing a stronger digital organizing powerhouse.

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