RELEASE: There Is No Evidence That TPS Designations Increase Irregular Migration to the United States, New CAP Study Confirms

Washington, D.C. — A new column released today by the Center for American Progress confirms that there is no evidence to suggest that granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) approximately 20 years ago to certain nationals from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua increased undocumented immigration to the United States.

Since the TPS was enacted by statute more than 30 years ago, skeptics have expressed concerns that TPS designations might encourage more people to migrate to the United States. However, there is no evidence that TPS designations have acted as a magnet for future irregular migration—and no particular reason to think that they ever would.

Using publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the annual number of people apprehended by immigration enforcement officials—which distinguish between the country of nationality of those apprehended and serve as a proxy for undocumented immigration—the column detected two important findings:

  1. There was no immediate post-TPS increase in the number of Nicaraguans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans apprehended by immigration enforcement officials in the years immediately following the granting of TPS for any of these three countries.
  2. Trends in apprehensions of citizens from those three countries generally do not statistically significantly differ from trends in the apprehensions of nationals from countries outside of Central America over the approximately 10-year period after the granting of TPS. In other words, there is no evidence of a post-TPS magnet effect over time.

To analyze the data more rigorously, the column analyzes post-TPS trends for Nicaraguans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans using the synthetic control method.  Neither the granting of TPS in 1999 to Hondurans and Nicaraguans nor the granting of TPS in 2001 to Salvadorans created a magnet effect for increased irregular migration to the United States from these countries.

“Our analysis shows that neither the granting of TPS in 1999 to Hondurans and Nicaraguans nor the granting of TPS in 2001 to Salvadorans created a magnet effect for increased undocumented immigration,” said Tom K. Wong, senior fellow for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the column. “These findings serve as an important reminder that concerns about future irregular migration need not stunt the ability to expand legal protections for those who need it now, especially when these concerns are not supported by the available empirical data.”

“The unprecedented hurricanes that swept through Central American countries in November compounded long-standing problems, including poverty and pervasive food insecurity, and leveled health care systems already beyond capacity as a result of the ongoing pandemic,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration Policy at CAP and co-author of the column. “New TPS designations for El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Honduras can help to promote stability and recovery—consistent with the administration’s overall strategy in the region—and decisions should be based on the statute and sound policy considerations, not fear and anxiety.”

“The United States has been providing temporary humanitarian relief through TPS for years to countries going through extraordinary circumstances including natural disaster and conflict,” said Silva Mathema, associate director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the column. “TPS is an important policy tool to protect those who receive it from removal while giving them an opportunity to get work authorization.”

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