Twenty-six delegates from the East Bay and Northern California will join the National Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, Alliance and more than 50 other groups from around the nation in Washington, D.C. in a national summit to fight for a legal solution and pathway for permanent status for TPS recipients.
TPS is a provisional designation that is granted to immigrants in the United States who cannot return to their countries of origin because of armed conflict, natural disasters and/or epidemics or other extraordinary circumstances. This status allows immigrants to work and live in the U.S. legally. The termination of TPS for many of the designated 10 countries has been threatened by the Donald Trump administration, but the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has been able to temporarily keep TPS designations viable.
The delegation will include members from the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, the Central American Resource Center, or CARECEN, in San Francisco, the TPS Committee Fighting for our Rights and the Northern California TPS Coalition.
“Without a legislative solution, their lives are still at risk because of this administration’s attacks on the program,” said Lisa Hoffman, development director for the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. “This is why we are rallying together to urge the 166th Congress to pass the American Promise Act or other legislation to protect … all TPS holders from all 10 counties.”
Vanessa Velasco, community outreach specialist for CARECEN SF and a TPS beneficiary from El Salvador whose husband is also a TPS beneficiary, said they are also fighting for the renewal of status for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The local delegation, which includes TPS holders, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and legal residents who are children of TPS holders, faith community leaders and allies, will be attending various meetings in the House and Senate from Feb. 10-13. The TPS Committee Fighting for our Rights will be meeting with U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, D-California, to urge her to help pass legislation that will allow TPS holders to stay in the U.S. legally and have a pathway to achieve permanent legal status.
Though the American Promise Act, which includes a path to permanent residency for TPS holders, has already been introduced to the House, Hoffman said the delegations are advocating for any legislation that would protect families.
“We just want them to see that the impact will not just be on the TPS beneficiaries, but that since many of them have been in this country for 20 years, on their children that will be left behind,” Velasco said. “What will we do to protect (the children)? … They cannot go back to countries that some of them have never been before, that they don’t even speak the language.”
California, with 80,636 out of the 436,866 TPS holders living in the U.S. as of Oct. 12, 2017, has the largest number of TPS recipients of any state, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
“They are working — they are contributing to the economy — more than half of them own their own homes,” Hoffman said. “They are upstanding members of our community, and the Trump administration is threatening to send them back to unstable situations that people are fleeing from.”
Hoffman added that because many of these TPS recipients have been in the country for about 20 years, they could be targeted for extortion and violence if they returned to their home countries and that in general, they have nothing to go back to. Many of them have built families in the U.S. that would be “torn apart” if they were forced to leave, Hoffman said, mentioning that there are more than 270,000 children who are U.S. citizens and being raised by TPS holders.
“We are fighting every day to do whatever we can to keep our family together,” Velasco said.