How Temporary Protected Status Holders Helps Disaster Recovery and Preparedness

As the deadline to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians and Central Americans approaches, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has yet to decide whether the 325,000 TPS recipients currently in the United States will be allowed to stay. Designed to allow people from designated countries struck by natural disasters, wars, or conflicts to stay and work temporarily in the United States, TPS offers certain immigrants the chance to stay safe from dangerous conditions in their home countries while also contributing to the American economy.

In this brief, we use data from the American Community Survey from 2013-2015 to shed light on the economic contributions TPS recipients are making in communities across the country. In the wake of the devastating hurricanes that hit the U.S. this year, we specifically wanted to estimate TPS holders’ contributions to the construction industry and the housing market—two sectors of the economy critical to disaster recovery. We also examine TPS holders’ income and tax contributions to federal, state and local governments—funds that are used to provide emergency services and rebuild, but also make cities more disaster-ready. Our findings suggest that if DHS forces TPS recipients to leave the country, it not only risks putting those individuals in danger, but also threatens significant disruption to local construction industries, housing markets, and the overall economy, all of which are key to preparing for or responding to natural disasters.

According to the Center for Migration Studies, the overwhelming majority of TPS recipients come from three countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, where ongoing conflicts or environmental conditions have caused widespread devastation.[1] Granted the temporary right to work in the United States, TPS recipients have been able to contribute to a diverse range of industries, becoming an indispensable part of the U.S. economy. Our analysis shows that nationally, more than 95 percent of the TPS recipients are of working age between 16 and 64 years old, as compared to only 64.6 percent of the U.S.-born population.

Looking closer at the industries that rely the most on TPS holders, we find that construction leads the pack. Almost 47,000 TPS workers, or close to one in five, works in construction. These workers serve as carpenters, roofers, and other construction laborers, helping to build—and in some cases, rebuild—houses and commercial properties across the country.

TPS holders are concentrated in six metro areas, including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, and Dallas. Nearly all of these metros have been recently impacted by natural disasters: in August of this year, Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston and thousands of victims sought shelter in Dallas, and the following month Hurricane Irma’s winds caused billions of dollars in damage to Miami. Only five years earlier, Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast including the New York and Washington D.C. metro areas.

Figure 1: Top Metro Areas by TPS Population

Metro Area TPS Population
Metro Area TPS Population
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 41,768
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 40,895
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 39,716
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 34,947
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 28,260
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 15,627

Looking specifically at the construction industry in each of these metro areas, we find that TPS holders play a critical role (See Figure 2). In Washington D.C., almost one in three TPS holders, or 11,500 individuals, work in construction. Meanwhile, about one in five TPS recipients work in construction in the Houston metro area, which is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey and remains desperately in need of workers to help rebuild affected neighborhoods.

At a time when we need all hands on deck to help in the recovery effort, losing TPS construction workers will only slow the rebuilding process, hamper economic development, and leave these communities in limbo.

Figure 2: Number and Share of TPS Construction Workers in Selected Metro Areas

TPS holders working in construction Share of TPS workers employed in construction
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 11,490 31.9%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 4,536 13.6%
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 4,063 11.7%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 2,913 11.1%
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 4,966 21.7%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 2,725 20.1%

TPS holders also play another important role in maintaining housing stocks in the areas struck by the hurricanes. In Houston, where Hurricane Harvey caused billions of dollars in economic losses, more than 40 percent of TPS households own their own homes. If DHS fails to extend TPS designation for these homeowners, the property that they own will be left in a vulnerable state, prompting them to either sell or abandon their houses, decreasing the overall demand for housing and sinking property values.

Figure 3: Number and Share of TPS Homeowners in Selected Metro Areas

Number of TPS homeowners Share of TPS households that are home owners
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 6,069 34.0%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 2,689 16.1%
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 4,609 29.7%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 3,125 26.0%
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 5,833 40.4%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 3,624 46.0%

Furthermore, we estimate that TPS recipients earn nearly $7 billion in total household income and contribute more than $1.3 billion to federal, state, and local taxes across the country. For example, in the Miami metro area, TPS holders earn $451.1 million household income and contribute $76.1 million total taxes. In Houston, meanwhile, TPS holders earn more than $600 million and pay $110.4 million in total taxes. All levels of government—from FEMA to local firehouses—rely on taxpayer dollars to adequately respond to disaster and rebuild impacted communities in the aftermath.

Figure 4: Total Household Income and Tax Contributions by TPS

Total Household Income (in $millions) Total Tax Contributions (in $millions)
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 1,164.3 251.4
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 731.9 134.7
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 1,001.0 231.9
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 451.1 76.1
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 603.1 110.4
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 347.0 72.0

The 320,000 TPS holders are faced with an extremely uncertain future. During their time in the United States, they have made enormous contributions to various industries and paid billions in taxes. If they lose their protected status from the U.S. government, they will be put into a difficult, if not impossible, situation by being sent back to home countries that are still struggling and unprepared to repatriate such a large number of individuals at once. Few TPS holders will have time to secure stable employment or housing before returning home.

Cities like Miami, Houston, and Dallas are relying heavily on workers and tax payers with TPS to contribute to their recovery efforts. Keeping TPS holders in these and other communities not only protects them, but also increases our country’s resilience in the face of recent or future disasters.

 

Methodology

New American Economy (NAE) uses 2013-2015 American Community Survey (ACS) from Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) database to conduct the analysis.[1] To identify potential TPS holders in different metro areas, we follow the eligibility requirements from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).[2] As of October 2017, there are nine designated countries for TPS: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. After identifying the countries of origin for these individuals in the survey, we then use year of entry to determine whether they meet the requirement for continuous residence regulated by USCIS.

Similar to a paper by Center for Migration Studies (CMS) published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security, we include TPS holders in the estimates of undocumented immigrants though their status is comparable to other legally present noncitizens.[3] In previous research, NAE has developed a methodology using ACS microdata to determine whether an individual is undocumented.[4] We use the same methodology along with the TPS eligibility criteria described above to determine whether an individual is a potential TPS holder. We then calculate the share of TPS holders working in the construction industry and the share of homeowners in different metro areas.

To estimate the total TPS-holding population, their aggregate household income and tax contributions, the number of TPS construction workers, and the number of TPS homeowners, we apply weighting adjustments to estimates from the ACS. First, we calculate the ratio of TPS holders using the data from CMS mentioned above to total potential TPS holders, taken from the ACS for each of the nine TPS designed countries.[5] We use the CMS estimates for TPS holders by country of origin as the CMS data is more accurate given that the data source for their report comes directly from the Congressional Research Service and thus indirectly from USCIS. We then apply these ratios as weights to adjust for our final TPS population estimates in different metro areas.

Similar to NAE’s other work on the economic contributions of immigrants overall, we estimate state and local taxes using the tax incidence estimates produced by ITEP.[6] For federal tax rate estimates, we use data released by the Congressional Budget Office in 2014 and calculate the federal tax contributions based on the CBO estimates for household federal tax incidence rates by income quintile.[7]


[1] University of Minnesota, “IPUMS-USA,” 2014 2005, www.ipums.org.

[2] “Temporary Protected Status,” USCIS, accessed November 1, 2017, https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status.

[3] Robert Warren and Donald Kerwin, “A Statistical and Demographic Profile of the US Temporary Protected Status Populations from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti,” Journal on Migration and Human Security 5, no. 3 (July 20, 2017), https://doi.org/10.14240/jmhs.v5i3.99.

[4] “Map the Impact Methodology,” New American Economy, accessed November 1, 2017, http://www.newamericaneconomy.org/methodology/.

[5] Warren and Kerwin, “A Statistical and Demographic Profile of the US Temporary Protected Status Populations from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.”

[6] “Who Pays? 5th Edition,” Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, January 2015, https://itep.org/whopays/.

[7] Congressional Budget Office, “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2011” 17, no. 4 (November 2014): 695.

[1] Robert Warren and Donald Kerwin, “A Statistical and Demographic Profile of the US Temporary Protected Status Populations from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti,” Journal on Migration and Human Security 5, no. 3 (July 20, 2017), https://doi.org/10.14240/jmhs.v5i3.99.

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