The U.N. origins for the Temporary Protected Status program

On February 22, a class action suit was filed arguing that the federal government could not without permanent residence to certain persons here covered by Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In September 2017, the federal government had withdrawn TPS from 65,000 nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

The United States currently provides TPS to approximately 437,000 foreign nationals from 10 countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. TPS for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone expired in May 2017, but certain Liberians maintain relief under an administrative mechanism.

Per the Congressional Research Service, the United States enacted the TPS program Immigration Act of 1990. An obligation to enact such a program arose from 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The protocol specifies that a refugee is a person who is unwilling or unable to return to his/her country of nationality or habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The legal definition of a refugee in the immigration law is consistent with the U.N. Protocol.

TPS protection is available to foreign nationals within the United States who may not meet the legal definition of refugee or asylee but are nonetheless fleeing—or reluctant to return to—potentially dangerous situations.

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