For the more than 300,000 immigrants in the United States with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, every day brings them one step closer to deportation.
The TPS program protects immigrants who were forced from their home countries by extreme circumstances, like war and devastating natural disasters, by providing a temporary work permit and stay of deportation. Now, as a result of the Trump administration's planned termination of the TPS program, they could be separated from their families, including nearly 273,000 children who were born in the U.S., and sent back to countries they no longer know.
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would comply with pending litigation by extending the phaseout period for current TPS recipients from some countries through Jan. 4, 2021. At the same time, the administration indicated that it might shorten that period if the litigation is resolved.
This means that, for the time being, TPS beneficiaries can continue working with the permits they received, but the looming possibility of deportation remains a constant and imminent threat.
After fleeing their home countries to seek safety in the United States, TPS holders have become integral parts of their communities. Many have been here for more than 20 years and are American in every sense of the word. Most of them, about two-thirds, are from El Salvador.
TPS holders are not alone on the emotional roller-coaster set in motion by President Donald Trump, whose administration has also targeted other immigrants, including those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In all, there are about 1 million residents across America who came to the U.S. years ago, raised families and remained employed, who are at risk of imminent deportation.
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It is time for Congress to take control of the nation's immigration policies, so TPS holders can steady their lives and be given the opportunity to apply for permanent residency visas. More broadly, Congress should enact humanitarian-based policies that address the conditions and circumstances that force people to flee their home countries in order to seek refuge here.
We arrive at this conclusion not solely as longtime immigrants' rights advocates but as U.S. citizens who have experienced life as undocumented immigrants in this country. For one of us, gaining legal status in the U.S. came first in the form of the TPS program, after escaping war-torn El Salvador decades ago.
TPS has allowed many immigrants to work hard and raise families without fear of violence; to dream of bright futures without immediate fear of deportation. The termination of this program and the deportation of TPS holders is a cruel political tactic, with real-life consequences.
Families will be torn apart, people will be put into danger and our country will lose hundreds of thousands of people who have become ingrained in our communities. This should set off alarms for almost everyone in the U.S., whether they are recent arrivals or descendants of those who arrived on the Mayflower.
The beneficiaries of programs offering temporary relief from deportation have contributed greatly to our nation's economic, social and cultural fabric. But the most important reason for Congress to end the Trump roller-coaster is that these are real human beings who, like all of us, deserve an opportunity to live in safety and to fulfill their dreams for a better life.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Sulma Arias is the immigration field director of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement Campaign at Community Change. Oscar Chacon is the co-founder and executive director of Alianza Americas. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by the Tribune News Service.