Given the events of the last few weeks and months in Guatemala, let me just say that I would fully support an extension of Temporary-Protected Status to citizens of Guatemala. Carly Steinberger at COHA argued for an extension of TPS to Guatemala last week.
However, given that Guatemalans and Central Americans in general live in an area of the world where natural disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, and tropical storms) occur quite regularly, we need to come up with a better system. Here are some concerns.
First, we are running into the problem where it is never the right time to let TPS expire. As Steinberger points out, nine years have passed since a series of earthquakes led to the extension of TPS to El Salvador and twelve years have passed since Hurricane Mitch led to TPS for Nicaragua and Honduras. Yet all three countries have seen TPS extended (USCIS). More recently, the US "awarded" Haiti TPS designation on January 21, 2010 following its devastating earthquake. Will conditions on the ground call for an expiration of TPS in July 2011 when it is set to expire? For how many decades should Haitians receive the benefits of TPS?
Second, former President of El Salvador, Tony Saca, seemed quite open about the fact that one of the reasons why his country sent troops to supoport the US mission in Iraq and kept them there was that he thought it would help convince the US to keep extending TPS to Salvadorans nationals. A humanitarian gesture to extend TPS should not be based upon a country's willingness to contribute to US miltiary invasions.
Finally, for now, who should receive TPS? As of right now, undocumented immigrants who are in the US at the time of a natural disaster in their homeland can qualify for TPS (illegal immigrants). Would it make more sense to extend TPS to those whose legal status is current but set to expire? Increase the number of green cards available to citizens of affected countries? What I am thinking about here is similar to those who argue that the US should continue to crack down on undocumented immigrants while simultaneously making it easier for people to migrate to the US legally.
Just some thoughts...