The Trump administration is denying Bahamians Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a USCIS designation that allows certain immigrants to be granted entry to the U.S. along with other privileges such as a green card, for up to 18 months or longer. On its face, this story is awful.
But as the Washington Post reported, it’s not really unexpected. The purpose of TPS is to allow foreign nationals to stay in the U.S. while conditions in their home country improved. Trump’s administration has rolled back TPS for Syria, El Salvador, Haiti and other nations. With the latest SCOTUS ruling regarding Trump’s asylum policy, this action on Bahamian TPS is in line with other nations, though out of line with the last two decades of American government diplomatic and immigration policy.
The Trump administration has argued against TPS extensions, saying that home conditions have improved and that Haitians, for example, should not get to stay in the United States nearly a decade after the earthquake that led to protected status.“Reports that U.S. won’t offer Bahamians ‘protected status’ while islands recover don’t surprise experts,” Washington Post, September 11, 2019
Here’s where this is misleading. TPS is just one of the programs USCIS has to allow foreigners into the U.S. when their home country faces a humanitarian crisis. Bahamians can be admitted on a parole basis, and have been, whether they have documentation or not.
The whole story about the ferry was overblown, because that was about procedures, not policy. USCIS depends on the operators of ships arriving in the U.S. to provide manifests and documentation of passengers. The ferry operator in question didn’t make the required contact with customs, and therefore was informed that its passengers might experience trouble getting in quickly. So the operator over-reacted and offloaded those passengers. Don’t blame Trump for that one.
We can, however, blame President Trump for this story regarding TPS. It’s true that one of the linchpins of the president’s asylum policy rollbacks is limiting TPS, which makes sense that there would be no reversal regarding the Bahamas.
However, the foot-eater-in-chief didn’t say any of that. Reported by the Washington Post, he said:
Asked if he would support a TPS designation, Trump said that “we’re talking to a lot of different people on that,” but he went on to air concerns about “some very bad people and some very bad gang members and … drug dealers” who could come to the United States from the Bahamas.
No, no, no. You don’t deny TPS designation to thousands of homeless and needy Bahamians to keep a few drug dealers or “very bad people” out. That’s messaging idiocy, but it’s what Trump said. He undermines his own policy with his mouth far too often and with disturbing regularity.
The reason for TPS denial is that the U.S. has other programs and tools at its disposal to help Bahamians, and that reforming the previous administration’s failed immigration policies requires using those tools while limiting the use of TPS.
But that’s not what Trump said. So the story about denying Bahamians TPS status is true. It’s also misleading. And you can blame President Trump for that.