We must protect Temporary Protected Status

People holding signs and collectively saying "protect TPS"
Samantha Patten/Staff

Since 1990, the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, program has provided legal and humanitarian protection to immigrants in the U.S. fleeing natural disasters, war and political unrest. At the end of 2017, President Trump threatened to terminate the TPS program and deport more than 320,000 TPS beneficiaries already living in the U.S.

Sadly, these threats were not empty words. President Trump terminated TPS in November 2018, creating a great crisis among families faced with uncertainty about their future. While his cancellation of TPS has been challenged in the courts, the final outcome is still pending. The administration’s actions are an unprecedented threat to the American dream for hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their children.

Cancelling TPS would have a huge and detrimental effect on the thousands of TPS families living, working and going to school here in the Bay Area. TPS holders work in local businesses, produce and consume goods, and pay taxes; about 30% of them own homes and many have retirement savings. Since 1990, EBSC has provided direct legal help to East Bay TPS holders and has offered support to hundreds more through forums and workshops. Like Dreamers, TPS holders attend local community colleges and universities, pursuing their education and working to support their families. Many families in the East Bay have mixed legal status: parents with TPS, young adults with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and younger children who are U.S. citizens.

Berkeley and Bay Area residents need to contact their representatives and urge them to pass legislation protecting these community members. While lawsuits have temporarily stopped their deportation, if Congress does not pass legislation soon, more than 273,000 children – all U.S. citizens – will be separated from their parents. There will be no one to take care of these children or provide them with education and health care. It is critical that Berkeley residents be involved in the effort to keep these families together. Beneficiaries of TPS will face dire consequences if they are deported. The 10 TPS beneficiary nations suffer from long-lasting civil wars, natural disasters and repression of the civilian population by militarized governments. Corruption in TPS beneficiary countries creates inescapable poverty as well as daily violence.

The deportation of our neighbors with TPS status will not only damage the U.S. economy; family members of immigrants who remain in their home countries will also lose millions of dollars in remittances — money sent from the U.S. to support relatives — causing even more economic instability in countries that people continue to flee.

The U.S. does not gain anything by separating families with TPS. If we fail to save TPS, many of our neighbors, classmates and friends will return to living in a state of chaos, crisis and insecurity. These immigrants are not “criminals” as described by the President; in fact, they must pass a rigorous FBI background check regularly. TPS holders have assimilated into the culture of this great country and have achieved the American dream. They contribute to the vitality of our economy. Another East Bay TPS holder states, “We worked so hard for 18 years, raising our children, paying taxes and even buying our own home. Now the administration is taking it all away.”

The cancellation of TPS forms one part of a much larger and methodically executed scheme to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, with dangerous consequences for hundreds of thousands of TPS holders and their children who have a legal right to live in the U.S.

The TPS Committee Fighting for Our Rights (fiscally sponsored by EBSC) has 26 East Bay leaders and is part of the NorCal TPS Coalition. We are among 35 regional committees heading to Washington, D.C. February 10-13 to meet with our elected representatives to advocate for permanent legal residency for TPS holders and Dreamers.

The Berkeley community should join East Bay Sanctuary in pressuring Congress to save TPS by passing the American Promise Act or other legislation that would give a path to permanent residency to all TPS beneficiaries regardless of their origin, race, color, religion or language. We ask allies in the East Bay and Berkeley to take action by contacting their representatives and asking them to pass the American Promise Act or other permanent legal remedy for TPS holders and Dreamers. Financial contributions to the EBSC for TPS Campaign are also essential to the maintenance of the TPS program. Lastly, it is critical that we all share information through phone banks, faith communities and social media to educate others about TPS and the need for a permanent legal solution to #KeepFamiliesTogether.

Manuel de Paz is the director of community development and education. Lisa Hoffman is the development director at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant.