Sane, fiscally responsible policy on Temporary Protected Status should be part of immigration reform
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The Trump administration has once again ignored reality, rejected compassion, and turned tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors living here in America into unauthorized immigrants.

Last week, it was nearly 60,000 Hondurans who were told they must leave. They will now be forced to return to one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Before that, Trump dealt similarly cruel fates to families who had fled brutal, dangerous, or impoverished conditions in other countries, including El Salvador, Haiti, Liberia, Nicaragua, Nepal and Sudan.

The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation is designed to protect people already living in the United States from the threat of deportation if their home countries remain crippled by natural disasters, armed conflict, or other dangerous conditions. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE’s anti-immigrant agenda has already led his administration to rescind TPS for hundreds of thousands of people contributing to communities across America.

As with Trump’s previous displays of cruelty, his move to push Hondurans out of the country was not driven by an urgent need to act. In reality, tearing these families apart will not make our country safer, or our economy stronger: TPS holders are among the most thoroughly vetted immigrants in the U.S.; they contribute billions to our gross domestic product, and are ineligible for most federal benefit programs.

Since many TPS recipients have been here for years, you may know them as your neighbors, friends and co-workers. Like you, they work hard and pay taxes.

In fact, if Trump’s TPS revocations are carried out, federal taxpayers will see a steep bill, costing as much as $3.1 billion to deport Salvadorans, Hondurans and Haitians alone.

Moreover, by deporting thousands of people back to countries that are clearly still in distress, Trump will be making conditions worse, not better. Many of these countries count on the financial support of family members living here and forcing them home would dry up that aid. Ironically, adding more economic strain and service demands on what are often poor, beleaguered economies could trigger even more people to seek asylum abroad, and likely require more U.S. foreign aid funding.

Trump was given these warnings by senior U.S. diplomats last year: mass deportations could further destabilize affected regions, triggering a new surge of illegal immigration. Trump ignored them.

Instead of allowing Trump to stoke anxiety and distress among immigrants, we should pursue sane, compassionate, and fiscally responsible immigration reform. That starts with reforming policies around TPS and the similarly-situated Deferred Enforced Departure program.

Congress should start by providing a pathway to legal immigration status to those people who have lived here for a significant period of time and recognize that the conditions in their native countries does not allow for a safe return.

Just like DREAMers who were born in America to immigrant parents, hardworking TPS and DED designees should also be eligible for a path to residency and citizenship.

That’s why I’ve joined more than 100 other members of Congress in supporting the American Promise Act. It would provide legal permanent residence for vetted TPS and DED recipients if they can demonstrate a continuous physical presence for at least three years prior to the bill becoming enacted or demonstrate extreme hardships.

The American Promise Act also would require clearer explanations of TPS terminations and evaluate a country’s ability to repatriate its own people. We see a need for that clarity in the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Venezuela where millions are being denied access to food and lifesaving medicine by a corrupt regime. Venezuelans deserve freedom and self-government, and until they get it, we must protect and shelter these brave men, women and children under TPS.

Everyone wants a place to call home. But when you can’t safely return to a home that once was, you should be allowed to stay securely in a new one. This principle is a fundamental value on which America was built.

Wasserman Schultz represents Florida’s 23rd District.