On July 18, a few United States Senators sent a letter to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), urging the redesignation of Venezuela and Nicaragua for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). 

There are a total of 16 countries that are currently designated for TPS and each country has its extended designated period dates and requirements. 

The secretary of the DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas, may designate a foreign country for TPS due to the conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries who are already in the U.S., according to the USCIS website.

On June 13, the DHS rescinded the prior administration’s termination of temporary protected status designations for the countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal and Nicaragua. Throughout the Biden administration, there have been efforts to expand the number of immigrants eligible for TPS.

There are about 670,000 individuals from the 16 countries currently registered or newly registered for TPS, according to an April 21 Pew Research article

These TPS recipients live in all 50 states and have been here for years and decades. Many have shared their stories and continue to press demands for a more just immigration system and to create permanent paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

On July 26, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members from across the country with TPS went to the Capitol alongside their family members to lobby elected officials to raise their demands for President Biden to redesignate TPS for these countries and grant TPS for Guatemala.  

Veronica Lagunas, originally from El Salvador, was among the few lobbying at the Capitol alongside her two U.S. citizen children.

“We have come to speak with congressmen and senators and I appreciate the many people who have supported us. Together we can extend these new work permits that will expire in up to 18 months,” said Lagunas. “But it is not enough to just extend TPS for people who already had it, but also open it for people who do not have TPS and for more countries like Guatemala.”

She’s advocating not just on her behalf but on behalf of many families who don’t have TPS and those who could benefit from it and keep families united. 

Lagunas migrated from El Salvador in January 2001, after the Central American country was hit by an earthquake. By February of that year, Lagunas and her mother received TPS, but her father came years later and doesn’t have TPS. 

SEIU members and their families traveled to D.C. to meet with elected officials urging action on Temporary Protected Status. One of those officials was Texas Congressman Al Green. Courtesy photo 

“If one day my TPS is revoked, my children will be left alone here. My children should worry about other things, but unfortunately, they are worried that one day their mother will lose TPS and that we’ll be separated,” said Lagunas.

This is the fear for 23-year-old Silvia Sop-Poz, whose mom is a SEIU member who migrated to Texas from Guatemala.

“I’ve seen my mom struggle growing up, especially as a single mom working many jobs,” Sop-Poz said. “Just as much as she did to provide for us, that’s what we want for her as well and that’s why we are here to fight for TPS for Guatemala.”

Silvia’s 16-year-old sister, Perla Tzoy, also traveled to the Capitol and has similar sentiments.

“It’s important for me because my mom has worked two jobs and we barely see her, only a bit in the morning or at night and she deserves an opportunity here in the U.S.,” Tzoy said. “She gave up everything and her life in Guatemala to come to the States and offer a better future for me and my siblings.”

Tzoy wants other young adults and teenagers to feel welcome in speaking up and advocating for their parents or other family members and not feel ashamed.

Lagunas’ goal is to continue to bring awareness, not just to the President, but to everybody. And that these recipients work hard every day to contribute to the U.S. and give a better life to their families.