As the 2020 campaign renews conversations about immigration reform, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative today published a policy brief on the benefits of Temporary Protected Status, an immigration status that permits people from specified countries to remain temporarily in the United States if they cannot safely return to their homes because of a catastrophic event.

Of the approximately 400,000 people living in the U.S. under the program, over 70% have lived here for more than 20 years, and about two-thirds have U.S.-born children, which suggests the significant destabilizing effect that could be caused by changes proposed by the Trump administration.

In 2018, the administration proposed removing protections for people from Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador, who collectively are the largest contingent of residents with temporary protected status. In 2019 the Department of Homeland Security extended protections through January 2021 following injunctions from a series of lawsuits filed by people in the program.

The UCLA study found that over 88% of residents with temporary protected status are in the labor force, and that almost 11% are self-employed, compared to only 7.2% of naturalized immigrants. However, they also have lower rates of homeownership than naturalized immigrants (31.9% versus 64.7%) and are less likely to have health insurance (77.7% versus 88.3%).

“As we have seen with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, there are benefits with taking people out of the shadows,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. “At a time when immigrants have played a key role in maintaining the economy as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand what is at stake when protections for immigrants like Temporary Protected Status are taken away.”

The study recommends two actions to improve the long-term integration of immigrants with temporary protection status:

  • Renew Temporary Protected Status designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan — the home nations for 98% of all participants in the program — beyond the January 2021 deadline.
  • Grant permanent resident status to all residents living under temporary protected status.

“The goal of the recommendations is to ensure the stability and certainty that allows immigrants to continue living safe and healthy lives with greater economic opportunities,” said Cecilia Menjívar, the study’s author and a UCLA professor of sociology.

“Providing a legal pathway for immigrants to participate fully in their communities has proven time and time again to be a win for everyone in the communities they live in,” Menjívar said. “As the election season brings up discussions about immigration reform, the data presented in the report shows the need to provide TPS holders with a permanent immigration status that would allow them to live full lives without a constant fear of deportation.”