Ending Temporary Coverage For Foreign Personnel Could Hurt U.S. Rebuilding Efforts

Ending Temporary Coverage For Foreign Personnel Could Hurt U.S. Rebuilding Efforts

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The Trump administration has been eliminating some protections that allow more than 300,000 people to live and work in the U.S. under what is known as Temporary Secured Status. Many could deal with deportation when their position expires.

Around 50,000 of them work in the engineering industry, concentrated in areas like Texas, Florida and California that are dealing with hurricanes and wildfires and where labor shortages in construction are specially acute.

For decades, administrations routinely renewed Temporary Guarded Status, enabling those already residing in the U.S. to remain, because their home countries were ravaged by battle or disaster.


Pedro Serritos has legally worked in the U.S. since he settled in Houston as a man to escape the poverty and aftermath of civil battle in El Salvador. Nearly twenty years later, he spent some time working his way up to engineering supervisor. He includes a home loan, a wife and three kids.

“We’re paying the home; we’re sort of established here right now,” he says. “But if we lose that position, I’m gonna get rid of my job.”

Serritos’ wife, a restaurant worker, can be in limbo as one of 57,000 Hondurans who could also lose their position. If that happens, Serritos says they will likely have to move – but preferably not back again to El Salvador, where crime runs rampant.

He says his wife worries; he tries to avoid thinking about it.

“I don’t need to get depressed,” he says.

Previous month, the Trump administration lifted protections for approximately 53,000 personnel from Haiti and Nicaragua. It will decide the fate of almost 200,000 Salvadorans early on next year.

The administration is making these moves in defiance of the business community. The Chamber of Commerce, National Association of House Builders and other groupings have lobbied to maintain TPS workers. The groupings say the personnel are playing a huge role in recovery initiatives pursuing hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the California wildfires.

“I have worked on TPS concerns for years and I have never known sector to come out to get TPS personnel really in these sort of numbers ever before,” says Royce Murray, insurance plan director for the American Immigration Council, which is advocating on behalf of the workers.

The issue provides united groups normally in opposition – the left and right, industry and labor.

Alex Nowrasteh, a great immigration insurance plan analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute, says there is absolutely no economic justification for ending TPS.

“These workers are not competing with very many Americans in the labor force,” he says. “The economy is growing very speedily in the United States. American firms and customers want to hire these folks.”

Nowrasteh says forcing personnel to sell their homes or work underground would have other organization impacts: The personnel would make less in wages, have little usage of loans, and therefore spend less on goods and products and services.

He agrees with the liberal-leaning think container Center for American Progress, which estimates ending TPS would mean losing $164 billion in economic growth over ten years.

Nowrasteh likewise notes that TPS personnel pay taxes but aren’t qualified to receive welfare and meals stamps, “thus they’re leaving and taking their creation with them, taking their outcome with them; taking their work with them is a total net loss and there’s no kind of savings on the taxpayer side.”

Serritos, the engineering supervisor, functions for Marek, a huge commercial and residential engineering firm that operates through the entire Southeast and employs 2,000 full-time personnel and an additional 4,000 contractors.

Mike Holland, Marek’s chief operating officer, says immigration and TSP both create big workforce head aches for him. He is aware of 30 TSP personnel who could be affected.

“I was shocked,” he says. “What happens if [Serrito] loses his position, and the simple truth is both of us get hammered. I mean, the pipeline is normally pinched, and there’s really just not usage of more labor.”

Marek verifies its staff’ legal status via an automated system. Holland says ending the position will benefit firms that aren’t as ethical.

“What happens is we get rid of a valued resource, battle to meet the anticipations of our clients, and then feed a source to a competitor who will beat us with our own people, and carrying it out illegitimately,” he says. “It’s really not amazing.”

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