WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of Ecuador's deadly earthquake in April that tragically claimed more than 650 lives, today U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-NJ), and U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Albio Sires (NJ-08), and Donald Norcross (NJ-01) called for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Ecuadorian nationals currently residing in the United States.
"As Ecuador begins to rebuild, it is clearly not in a position to receive those Ecuadorian nationals currently in the United States,” the lawmakers wrote. "TPS is a temporary, humane, compassionate response that the United States can make in addition to the other assistance we are providing in the region. Given the widespread damage and destruction in Ecuador, we respectfully urge you to grant Ecuador TPS.”
The TPS designation, which is determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security, allows the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to provide temporary relief to foreign nationals residing in the United States who are unable to return home safely due to a natural disaster, an ongoing armed conflict, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.
TPS beneficiaries may not be deported during the designated period, can obtain an employment authorization document, and may be granted travel authorization. Once TPS is designated, an individual also cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States.
The United States has a strong tradition of supporting countries in their time of need, including granting Haiti TPS following the deadly 2010 earthquake, and Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone TPS following the 2014 outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
June 15, 2016
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Department of Homeland Security
301 7th Street, SW, Mail Stop 0150
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Johnson,
On April 16, 2016, Ecuador’s central coast was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Recent reports indicate that 660 people died during the earthquake with thousands more injured. As of May 20, 2016, the United Nations has reported that at least 73,000 people were displaced by this natural disaster. On May 24, 2016, President Rafael Correa formally requested Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Ecuadorian nationals currently in the United States. We write today to request that you immediately grant Ecuadorian nationals in the United States Temporary Protected Status.
As you know, the earthquake in Ecuador destroyed large swaths of the country’s infrastructure and caused tragic loss of life. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa estimated the cost of rebuilding could exceed $3 billion. The United Nations has identified an estimated 720,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance in Ecuador. The United States and our international partners have already shown tremendous leadership in supporting Ecuador’s recovery by sending them immediate aid.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Ecuadorian people are living in the United States, including over 100,000 in our home state of New Jersey, making it the second largest community of Ecuadorians in the United States. As Ecuador begins to rebuild, it is clearly not in a position to receive those Ecuadorian nationals currently in the United States. Granting Temporary Protected Status is a compassionate and appropriate measure in addressing this crisis.
TPS is a temporary response that does not confer any immigration benefit to these individuals and will avoid further burdening the Ecuadorian government in this time of severe distress. TPS was created for precisely this reason—to offer temporary, humane protection to foreign nationals living in the United States when extraordinary conditions make it impossible for them to return home. TPS has also been granted in the past in similar circumstances. For example, Haitian nationals in the United States received TPS after Haiti was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010.
TPS is a temporary, humane, compassionate response that the United States can make in addition to the other assistance we are providing in the region. Given the widespread damage and destruction in Ecuador, we respectfully urge you to grant Ecuador TPS.
Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to working with you on this matter.