On June 24, immigrants with temporary protected status (TPS) participated in a nationwide caravan that was organized by The National TPS Alliance. After the caravan the protesters presented themselves in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco demanding permanent residency and that TPS not be terminated.
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security had announced the termination of TPS for Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan and Nepal which could mean deportation for current TPS holders from those countries. However due to numerous lawsuits, TPS was given an extension that will expire January 4, 2021. The lawsuits are still ongoing. As of now there are 411,000 beneficiaries of TPS.
TPS was enacted by congress in 1990, with the purpose of offering humanitarian relief to foreign nationals fleeing natural disaster or political unrest, by resettling them for an unspecified period of time within the United States.
For many who have worked in the U.S. for years, it would also mean losing all of the social security benefits they accrued during their working years.
“We are asking for the opportunity to apply for permanent residency,” said Rosa Maria Carranza. “We have earned it through our work, our respect to the U.S. laws, and a commitment to continue to serve this nation.”
Carranza, 62, is a TPS beneficiary and a member of the TPS East Bay committee in Oakland. She is originally from El Salvador and she is a preschool teacher. She said that after 20 years of being in the U.S. she still continues to fight for permanent residency and she believes that TPS holders deserve permanent residency after decades of hard work.
She also believes that it is unjust for the government to deport immigrant workers back to their country of origin after having worked in the U.S. and after having added to social security during their work years.
“Now our countries have become foreign to us,” said Carranza. “Going back … without any means of surviving over there would be unfair…apart from that, all of what we have contributed to social security. If there is no solution for our permanent residency in this country, then that money stays here. We leave with empty hands,” said Carranza.
The topic of immigration was central in Trump’s presidential campaign and clearly it will continue to be as he tries to win reelection. His administration has a history of harsh immigration policies and controversial measures: Trump has repeatedly attempted to revoke Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); has moved to deport migrants with no serious criminal records; has signed executive orders attempting to bar refugees from Syria and implemented a travel ban from Muslim majority countries; and has separated migrant children from their parents.
In addition to the termination of TPS, the Trump administration announced on June 22 that it would be suspending entrance into the country to immigrants who may pose a threat to the job market due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This White House proclamation informs about the suspensions and limitations of visas: H-1B (work visas), H-2B (temporary work visas), J (non-immigrant visa for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor program), L (worker relocation visa). It’s another example of the aggressive anti-immigration tactics of this administration.
The only individuals who won’t be affected by this proclamation are those who work in areas associated with the food supply chain like field workers, or those individuals whose work can benefit national interest. As of now there are approximately 131,300 essential workers with TPS.
If the administration would have succeeded in terminating TPS before the current lawsuits in, these TPS essential workers who are at the frontline during the pandemic, would have been left without any protection against deportation.
Carranza commented that the termination of TPS and the fear of deportation has created a debilitating environment in immigrant communities. Claudia Silva, 16, also spoke at the protest along with Carranza. Silva shared some of the difficulties that families have been going through during this situation and the pandemic.
“Essential workers are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19. This doesn’t only affect them, but their own family. Essential workers are not only sustaining themselves and their family but also their community…immigrant labor is accepted in this country while the humanity of an immigrant is denied,” said Silva.