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Standing up for TPS

News & Commentary  |  By Peniel Ibe, Aug 3, 2018
Photo: AFSC

Immigrants and their families advocate to stay in the U.S.   

Bright and early on a Tuesday morning in mid-July, dozens of immigrants and their families boarded a bus in Newark, New Jersey. They were headed to Washington, D.C., where they would take a powerful stand to save Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS is a life-saving immigration program that allows foreign nationals to remain in the U.S. if war, natural disaster, or some other catastrophe in their country of origin prevents their safe return. 

Most TPS holders have lived in the U.S. for years, often decades, and have become vital parts of our communities. But over the past year, the Trump administration has ended TPS for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Nicaragua, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Haiti, Nepal, El Salvador, and Honduras, putting them at risk for deportation.  

AFSC and other organizations have supported TPS holders across the country to save this important program—and push Congress to pass legislation to provide TPS holders with lawful permanent residency and a roadmap to citizenship.   

On July 17, we hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill and a day of legislative visits, so members of Congress could hear directly from TPS holders and their families (Watch a recording of the briefing on Facebook). 

Here’s a behind-the scenes look from that day: 

 

AFSC’s Newark Immigrants Right Program and partner organizations accompanied more than 70 TPS holders and their families from New Jersey to Washington.

 

TPS holders from El Salvador.  

 

Chia-Chia Wang, director of AFSC Newark Immigrant Rights Program. 

 

The congressional briefing was standing-room only, attended by over 50 congressional staffers and advocacy organizations.

The briefing was organized in partnership with New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, Church World Service, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), Franciscan Action Network, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Latin America Working Group, Family Action Network Movement, and Alianza Americas.

 

"Today, the New Jersey Immigrants Right Program has brought the voices of our TPS community member to you. We know for a fact that going back to their countries of origin is not an option. It is not safe for returning families. The U.S. should do what is morally right and continue to extend protections for TPS recipients,” said Peniel Ibe, AFSC Policy fellow, who gave the opening remarks.

 

Jessica Giron, a mother and business owner from Honduras, told attendees: “I don’t see a way of returning to Honduras and leaving an entire life behind here, separating my children from the nation that they love so much and where their dreams are held. We are personally familiar with the levels of violence and frequent organized crimes in Honduras, because we lived through a kidnapping four years ago. I’ve lived and [been] protected by Temporary Protected Status for nearly 20 years.” 

 

Jill Marie Bussey, director of advocacy, CLINIC

“Under this administration, all forms of humanitarian immigration protection, such as TPS and [Deferred Enforced Departure], have been scaled back at alarming and unprecedented rates. … When TPS ends, the person immigration status returns to what they held before. And the majority of TPS holders, unfortunately, that means they will become undocumented, vulnerable to deportation, and for some individuals, immediate removal.”

 

TPS holder Alexandra Lebon, who is from Haiti, said: “I’ve built a life of my own. I have contributed to the American workforce over seven years in the hospitality sector, where I was able to establish a new career path for myself and help others. I have boosted my country's economy via sending money back home. … Life in the United States has provided me with a secure and peaceful environment, that I’ve always hoped for, a life where I don’t fear for my safety and wellbeing. Here, I feel safe walking on the streets with ease and without worry.” 

 

Rev Angie Kotzmoyer, associate pastor of Park Hill United Methodist Church, a sanctuary church in Denver urged attendees to show  support for TPS holders. “We have a moral obligation to ensure that people seeking protection are not ripped apart from the community that they have come to call home It is critical that you do what you can to support TPS holders. Your time is now.”

 

Jaqueline Portillo, daughter of two TPS holders from El Salvador, said: “My parents left during the aftermath of the sinful Salvadoran civil war. A war that lasted 12 years, it killed family members like my grandfather with a bomb and kidnapped my father to fight as a child soldier to fight for the side of ‘democracy.’ TPS gave my parents the opportunity to create a home, work hard, and get an education for my siblings and myself. They pay their taxes and contribute to this economy. They are citizens without the documentation.”

 

Elba Pereiram, a Salvadoran TPS holder from Newark, and her U.S. citizen daughter, Jamileth

Elba’s daughter, Jamileth told attendees: “My parents are TPS holders. Being separated from my parents is very difficult because they are everything to me. They give me support in school, for the things I want to do after school. We do family trips once in a while. Thinking of being separated from them is just hard because it is like the kids in the border that are being separated from their parents, not knowing when they are going to see them. But the only difference is that I am U.S. citizen, --I can fight for my parents to be here with me and stay here. I want everyone to know that they have done nothing wrong to be taken away from their kids.”

 

TPS holders and their families visited 32 congressional offices, including representatives of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Colorado, Washington, Maine, Arizona, Iowa, Florida, Texas, Virginia, California, and Louisiana. Pictured: TPS holders with New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith.

 

TPS holders with Congressman Albio Sires. 

 

TPS holders with legislative director Ian Wolf of Florida 

 

TPS holders with Julia Harrington, legislative assistant for Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter. 

 

AFSC will continue to support TPS holders and their families as they continue their struggle to defend this life-saving program.

Here’s how you can get involved to save TPS:

  1. Contact your members of Congress by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or emailing them today.  Urge them to pass humane immigration policies that would create a roadmap to citizenship for TPS holders.
  2. Visit afsc.org/TPS to read and share more stories of TPS holders and get mores resources to raise awareness and engage others in this effort.

About the Author

Peniel is the policy associate at AFSC. She is interested in international development, humanitarian crisis management and public policy. She is an immigrant from Nigeria who recently relocated to the United States and is advocating for the rights of others like her.