Washington, D.C. — While the Biden-Harris administration is working to tackle the root and acute causes of migration from Central America, it should view Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as an organic and powerful resource in its overall strategy—including by making new designations and redesignating countries that already have TPS—according to a new issue brief released today by the Center for American Progress. Remittances sent by TPS holders to their families abroad help them meet their basic needs, fund recovery efforts from natural disasters, and build economic security.
Remittances make up anywhere from 14 to 24 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—also known as the Northern Triangle of Central America—with most of the money coming from individuals in the United States. Furthermore, remittances to Latin American countries are substantially larger than foreign aid and go directly to people, allowing them to spend on what they need most.
As such, remittances along with foreign aid and targeted programs, must be seen by the administration as an important part of an overall strategy to deal with these migration pressures. Existing policy options—such as designating eligible countries for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which would boost remittances to these countries—should also be considered for the advantages they provide.
According to official data, as of March 2021, there were approximately 320,000 immigrants in the United States from 10 countries who have TPS; among this pool of immigrants, nearly 95 percent are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. Recently, six countries received new designations or redesignations—Burma, Haiti, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen—and, together, there are an estimated 481,980 new individuals eligible to apply for the TPS status.
Since TPS designations allow recipients to apply for work permits, they give immigrants an opportunity to find stable jobs, make substantial contributions to the United States, and help their families in their home countries. CAP recently estimated that in the United States, TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti—the three countries with the most recipients—pay $2.3 billion in federal taxes and $1.3 billion in state and local taxes annually, with more than $10.1 billion in spending power.
At the same time, in addition to a broader $4 billion aid package toward addressing the root causes of migration, Vice President Kamala Harris recently announced $310 million in increased assistance to get at the acute factors forcing people out of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; $115 million in cooperation aid was also granted to El Salvador to help them manage the challenge.
“Remittances from immigrants, including TPS holders, have the power to lift people out of poverty, increase investment in education and entrepreneurship, and even affect their decision to migrate,” said Silva Mathema, associate director for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the brief. “The United States should recognize the additional advantages of granting TPS that come from remittances and should not hesitate to designate or redesignate eligible countries for TPS.”
“TPS has long been used as a humanitarian solution for people living in the United States who were unable to return to their home countries due to unprecedented situations,” said Joel Martinez, Mexico policy analyst for National Security and International Policy at CAP and co-author of the column. “TPS should also have a larger role among the policy tools in the overall U.S. strategy to help tackle both root and acute causes of migration in the Central American region.”
Read the issue brief: “Temporary Protected Status Is Critical To Tackling the Root Causes of Migration in the Americas” by Silva Mathema and Joel Martinez
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