COVID-19 Impacting Central Florida TPS-Holders Especially Hard
Central Florida is the theme park capital of the world, and it is usually bustling with visitors year-round, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Tens of thousands of these employees are holders of a Temporary Protective Status (“TPS”), which allows individuals whose home country is deemed unsafe, to live and work in the United States. A country is generally determined to be “unsafe” if there is a natural disaster, such as in Honduras, Haiti, and El Salvador. There are over 400,000 TPS-holders nationwide, and over 45,000 of them live and work in Central Florida. Disney previously stated in 2017 that at least 500 of its Orlando theme park employees are TPS holders from Haiti. Rosen Hotels and Resorts employs over 1,000 TPS-holders. It is undeniable that TPS holders are part of the foundation of the central Florida tourism industry.
This status has been hotly debated and largely tenuous under the Trump Administration, with Trump, repeatedly threatening to rescind TPS status for individuals from Honduras, Haiti, and El Salvador. This status now hangs in the balance during this time of transition, with TPS holders uncertain whether and for how long protections will continue. This is particularly stressful for TPS holders who are married to individuals who hold a different citizenship status, or who have started families here.
COVID-19 Impacting Tourism in Central Florida
As if this were not stressful enough, the impact of COVID-19 on tourism is creating an additional layer of complexity for many central Florida families. Due to the pandemic, many theme parks and resorts have had to shut down at least temporarily, and can only operate at reduced capacity. This has triggered massive lay-offs at resorts and theme parks across central Florida and has had a particularly devastating impact on TPS holders who were already struggling to maintain their foothold here.