immigration handcuffs
Thousands of Central American migrants are facing deportation after being denied refugee status in the U.S. Over a hundred were apprehended in targeted ICE raids last week. Above: ICE contractors prepare to handcuff Honduran deportees on a flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Feb. 2013. John Moore/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders joined a growing chorus of Democrats and immigration advocates on Thursday, calling for a halt to “inhumanedeportations of Central American migrants. In a letter to President Obama, Sanders called on the administration to take advantage of a less-known form of immigration relief, called Temporary Protective Status. Unlike DACA and DAPA, TPS is not for migrants who have deep ties to the U.S. Rather, TPS is a pass on deportation based on conditions in the migrant’s home country. For example, thousands of Haitians became beneficiaries of TPS following devastating earthquake in 2010.

“Instead of immigration raids,” Sanders wrote to Obama, “I urge you to use your executive authority to protect -- not deport -- these families by extending TPS for those fleeing unsafe countries in Central America. Extreme violence constitutes an ‘extraordinary and temporary condition’ that prevents individuals from returning in safety.”

Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley has also named TPS as a possible remedy to raids this week, as we reported this morning. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants already benefit from TPS in three Central American countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. TPS was declared a decade or more ago in each of those countries, and has regularly extended.

Migrants can be ineligible for TPS for a number of reasons, including arriving in the U.S. long after their country is first designated or missing the initial application deadline, according to a USCIS official who spoke with the Latin Times. However, a country can be “redesignated,” a rare move that has happened, for example in Haiti in 2011.

For example, Haiti received TPS after the 2010 earthquake. It was redesignated again in 2011, so Haitians who arrived in those years can apply, but Haitians arriving in the U.S. today for the first time are not eligible.

In other words, what Sanders and O’Malley are really asking Obama is to designate the countries under a new threat, such as “extreme violence.” That may be unprecedented in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world.

The vast majority of the 13 current TPS designations were originated due to natural disasters. Exceptions include Liberia and a few others, where TPS or Deferred Deportations have been applied in recognition of ongoing civil wars.

The political risk for Democrats would be significant, in an election that is increasingly polarized over immigration. Its no surprise that Hillary Clinton, a more centrist candidate, hasn’t directly called on the administration to provide deportation relief for this migrants using TPS.

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