Grassley Demands Info On Little-Known Amnesty Program

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Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley sent a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke Tuesday demanding to know why a temporary amnesty program continues to be renewed.

The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program covers several hundred thousand nationals from a combined ten countries (El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen).

“We now have a program that permits several hundred thousand otherwise removable aliens to remain in the United States, where they are eligible to receive public benefits and are authorized for employment, permitting them to take jobs that might otherwise be filled by one of the 7.1 million unemployed Americans,” Grassley wrote in his letter to Duke. “I was encouraged by your recent announcement that Sudan will be terminated, having intermittently been designated for TPS since 1997, but some of the remaining ‘temporary’ designations have been in effect for decades.”

For example, around 195,000 Salvadorans have benefited from TPS since a 2001 earthquake in the Central American nation.

“Nationals of several TPS countries travel freely to and from the United States, indicating that country conditions are not so dire as to prevent a return to the TPS country,” the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman wrote. “For example, TPS for El Salvador, granted after earthquakes in 2001 and extended several times since, expires on March 9, 2018. In 2016 alone, however, 51,474 non-immigrant visas were issued to nationals of El Salvador, and 50,496 nonimmigrant visas were issued in the capital city of San Salvador.”

“TPS for Honduras and Nicaragua, first granted nearly 20 years ago (on January 5, 1999) and extended many times since, expires January 5, 2018. In 2016, however, 54,411 nonimmigrant visas were issued to nationals of Honduras (54,027 from the capital, Tegucigalpa), and 19,254 nonimmigrant visas were issued to nationals of Nicaragua(18,550 from the capital, Managua).”

Grassley noted that nonimmigrant visa applicants must prove that they intend to return to their “residence abroad.”

“If nationals and U.S. government officials who live within the country find it safe enough to return, why then have we as a government deemed the same country unsafe in the context of TPS?” the Iowa senator noted.

Grassley asked Duke to tell him by Nov. 10 what steps DHS will take in the review of a nation’s Temporary Protected Status, why do countries that get nonimmigrant visas still benefit from TPS, whether DHS is aware of how many illegal immigrants benefit from the program, and how the government will work to deport immigrants if their status expires.

DHS will have to make a decision on whether to renew TPS for Nicaragua and Honduras by Nov. 5.