RE: REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION OF RACIALLY DISPARATE DECISIONS REGARDING THE USE OF TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS

May 11, 2021

 

President Joseph R. Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

RE: REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION OF RACIALLY DISPARATE DECISIONS REGARDING THE USE OF TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS

 

Dear President Biden:

 

On behalf of the undersigned 144 state, local, and national immigrant, labor, faith, civil rights, and legal organizations, we write to urge that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): (a) conduct a comprehensive audit and investigation of the administration’s internal regulatory and sub-regulatory policies regarding the utilization of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which has led to disparate racial impacts in how and which countries are designated and when; and (b) designate or redesignate, at minimum, the following countries for Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Burkina Faso, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sierra Leone. All are currently experiencing country conditions that satisfy one or more of the qualifying conditions for a designation of TPS under 8 U.S.C. § 1254(a), extensively documented by conditions experts and advocates. These countries and others should receive their timely due diligence for initial designation and redesignation for TPS. We have also shared this request with the Inspector Generals for both DHS and State in the hopes that they conduct independent investigations into the apparent racialization and politicization of TPS designation decisions. 

 

Concerns of Racially and Politically Motivated TPS Decisionmaking

Notably, we are concerned that the State Department and White House senior advisors are in effect promoting anti-immigrant policies, including usurping the authority of (and subsequently preventing) DHS from making individualized country determinations on TPS, including the failure to use TPS to protect human life, keep families together, and serve other key domestic and foreign policy interests. While we are extremely supportive of the recent TPS designation for Ukraine, and later Afghanistan and Cameroon, we are deeply concerned that the administration’s processes regarding which countries are considered for TPS, and for how long, has led to a disturbing and undeniable outcome: the administration has thus far practiced a de facto policy of refusing or delaying designation of TPS for Black- and Brown-majority countries that clearly meet the statutory requirements. Additionally, the media and general public are becoming more and more acutely aware of the disparity in how TPS decisions differ based on the racial makeup of a country. 

We are especially disappointed by this apparent racial bias in granting TPS to countries that clearly and unequivocally meet the statutory requirements. While non-Black majority countries are processed with appropriate urgency, as was the case with Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State has consistently failed to review, delayed review, or issued factually incorrect determinations on Black and Brown countries. For example, Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis sparked action within eight days, while Cameroon required years of sustained, forceful advocacy to finally break the Department’s inertia and achieve the necessary TPS designation. Advocates have requested that Ethiopia be evaluated for TPS for the majority of your administration due to severe armed conflict and extraordinary conditions—yet the Department of State has continued to stall TPS. Similarly, Brown-majority countries in Central America, including Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, continue to have their TPS designations languish. Thus, we request an investigation into possible racial bias in the TPS-decision making within the White House, DHS, and the Department of State. 

 

TPS Must Be Revitalized and Fairly Utilized

The previous administration failed to even consider the use of initial designations and redesignations, resulting in four years’ worth of accrual of countries and people who should be eligible for TPS. While the Biden administration has rightfully designated or redesignated a number of countries for TPS since our last letter, many more are needed to alleviate the previous misuse of the program and respond to current humanitarian crises. We have observed that this administration, like previous administrations, continues to apply the TPS criteria too narrowly. Deportations to dangerous conditions have continued, even as evidence has mounted for these countries’ eligibility for humanitarian relief. TPS is a valuable and underused executive tool that would protect millions of people from being returned to untenable country conditions—in accordance with congressional intent—while simultaneously providing immigration relief to people in our country who have lived for decades without legal status or protection. 

The Biden administration promised to “order an immediate review of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries ripped apart by violence or disaster,” working to “heal the wounds inflicted on immigrant communities and restore America’s moral leadership.” We also highlight one of the president’s first executive orders, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” To keep that promise, TPS should be used broadly and boldly to safeguard lives, keep families together, boost the U.S. economy, and send a decisive foreign policy message that the United States will not send people back to conditions where their lives and freedom will be threatened. The administration should immediately use its clear executive authority to provide TPS protection warranted under the law and by morality.  

With the continuing delay and possible failure to pass meaningful immigration reform via Congress, it is more important than ever for the administration to use the full breadth of its executive power to provide essential humanitarian protections. If the Biden administration wants to keep its campaign promises to build a better immigration system, TPS is one of the few remaining tools for bold and immediate change. We reiterate that there is no numerical limit on the number of people who can hold TPS. The statute also includes an explicit bar prohibiting non-constitutional legal challenges regarding the Secretary’s decision to designate, terminate, and extend designations for countries for TPS, adding another layer of protection for the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion. While other administrative actions from the Biden administration may have been slowed by the courts, TPS is in the best position to carry out administrative (and Congressional) intent without being enjoined. Congress created TPS as a mechanism to provide immediate relief to those who cannot and should not be returned to dangerous conditions. Bold use of TPS remains in line with both the letter and spirit of the program. These designations will not only benefit millions of individuals in the United States, but also their families, employers, and communities here and in their countries of origin. 

 

Please do not allow your commitment to ensuring that the United States meets its responsibilities as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants to be compromised by political motivations.

 

If you have any questions regarding this letter, please feel free to contact Daniel Tse at dtse@haitianbridge.org and Lora Adams at lora@masadc.com.

 

Sincerely,

 

National

ACER, Inc

Adorers of the Blood of Christ, US Region

Advocating Opportunity

African Communities Together

African Diaspora for Good Governance

Alianza Americas

American Muslim Bar Association

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)

AsylumConnect

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

Border Organizing Project

Bridges Faith Initiative 

Cameroon Advocacy Network

CASA

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Church World Service

Climate Refugees

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces

Congregation of Saint Joseph

Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

Doctors for Camp Closure

Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose

Dominican Sisters of Sparkill

Envision Freedom Fund 

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

First Focus on Children

Haiti Response Coalition

Haitian Bridge Alliance 

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

Justice Action Center

Justice Committee Albany Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Justice for Migrant Women

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Leadership Team of the Felician Sisters of North America

Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)

Mutual Aid Immigration Network 

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

National Employment Law Project

National Immigrant Justice Center

National Immigration Law Center

National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)

National Partnership for New Americans

Office of Peace, Justice, and Ecological Integrity, Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth

Path With Heart

Presente.org

Quixote Center

RAICES

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

SFVI 

Sisters of Charity Federation

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province Leadership

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur EW

Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet

Sisters of St. Joseph, Rochester, NY

Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice

Tahirih Justice Center

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph

UndocuBlack Network

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Witness at the Border

World Education Services, Inc. 

Youthaiti

 

State and Local

Adhikaar

Al Otro Lado

American Friends Service Committee, Colorado

Arizona Justice For Our Neighbors 

Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, Inc. (AMEXCAN)

Buen Vecino

Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC, Inc.

California Immigrant Policy Center

Catholic Charities of Diocese of St. Augustine, FL

Catholic Charities of SW Kansas

Centro Romero

Chacón Center for Immigrant Justice at Maryland Carey Law

Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador Episcopal

Church of the Ascension, NYC

Church Women United in New York State

Cleveland Jobs with Justice

CLUE VC and UUJMCA

CLUE Ventura County

Columbia Legal Services

Community Asylum Seekers Project

Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible

Dominican Sisters of Hope

Dominican Sisters Springfield IL JPIC Committee

Felician Sisters of San Antonio, Texas

Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project

Florida Immigrant Coalition

Friends of Broward Detainees

Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network

Hope Border Institute

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

Human Rights Observation/Honduras

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Immigrant Action Alliance

Immigrant ARC

Immigrant Defenders Law Center

Immigrant Hope-Clifton NJ

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Immigrant Legal Center of Boulder County

Interfaith Welcome Coalition 

International Institute of New England

InterReligious Task Force on Central America 

Jewish Voice for Peace, Atlanta chapter

Just Neighbors Ministry

Justice for Our Neighbors El Paso

Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Long Island Immigration Clinic, Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY

Mississippi Center for Justice 

New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice

New York Immigration Coalition

New York Justice for Our Neighbors, Inc.

New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

Ohio Immigrant Alliance

RAYS OF FREEDOM ORG

Rian Immigrant Center

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network

San Bernardino Community Service Center, Inc

Seattle Immigrant Rights Action Group

SFV Indivisible

Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation

Sisters of Saint Joseph

Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA

Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York

Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg 

Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, LA

Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield 

Sisters of the Humility of Mary

Sisters of the Most Precious Blood

Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary

Social Justice Coalition

Social Justice Coalition of Central Lutheran Church, Portland

St. Walburg Monastery

The Legal Aid Society (New York)

Thompson Psychological Services, PLLC

TRUE ALLIANCE CENTER INC

Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid (VIA)

Wallingford Indivisible

Wayne Action for Racial Equality

Wesley Foundation Serving UCLA

Wilco Justice Alliance (Williamson County, TX)

Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center

 

LINK TO LETTER PDF
 

 cc: The Honorable Antony Blinken, Secretary of State

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security

The Honorable Diana R. Shaw, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Inspector General, Department of State

The Honorable Joseph V. Cuffari, Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security

 

 

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