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Democratic Congressional Leaders Call for Investigations Into Trump Administration’s Likely Illegal TPS Terminations

Letter from congressional Democrats to State Department Office of Inspector General, February 3, 2020

This week, House and Senate Democratic leaders sent a letter to the U.S. State Department’s Office of Inspector General that calls for an investigation into the State Department’s role in the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. A November Minority Staff report for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee revealed a 2017 action memo in which political appointees in the Office of Policy Planning recommended that the secretary of state ignore the serious concerns that diplomatic personnel raised about the decision to terminate TPS designations and instead shorten the timeline for termination of TPS from 36 months to 18 months. (Some argued that TPS should not be terminated at all, while others pressed for a 36-month phase-out period.) The expedited timeline would avoid hundreds of thousands of TPS holders losing their work authorization and protections against deportation during upcoming elections. Throughout the decision-making process, senior officials warned that ending TPS for El Salvador, for instance, would subject TPS recipients and their U.S.-citizen children to the threat of gang violence and death. This concern was validated in a new Human Rights Watch report that documents more than 200 individuals deported from the United States to El Salvador since 2013 who have disappeared or been murdered, raped, or tortured, typically at the hands of gangs.

Under law, TPS can only be terminated when a country no longer meets the conditions necessary for designation—an intensely fact-based decision. By impermissibly injecting the president’s political interests into the decision, the administration likely made an arbitrary and unlawful decision that puts politics ahead of foreign policy and security interests. The termination of TPS for these three countries will put hundreds of thousands of TPS holders and their families at risk.

For more on how the Trump administration’s termination of TPS undermines the rule of law, see the Center for American Progress report “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”