Berkeley citizens must support new TPS legislation

On February 9, I accompanied a delegation from the Bay Area to Washington D.C. to attend the second National TPS People’s Summit and to urge lawmakers to support a pathway to residency for holders of Temporary Protected Status. TPS is a provisional designation given to 320,000 people from 10 countries who cannot return to their home countries due to natural disasters, violence or other extraordinary circumstances. The Trump administration has attempted to cancel TPS as part of a larger plan to overhaul the U.S. immigration system without going through Congress, where immigration laws are debated and created. UC students and citizens must educate themselves about what the administration is doing and join with our neighbors and friends to challenge the administration’s attacks on the rule of law and humanitarian legal programs like TPS and DACA.

The cancellation of TPS has led to a wave of civic mobilization by people who are beneficiaries and their allies. At the National TPS People’s Summit, the main slogan was “Nothing about us without us.” This notion of civic participation resonates far beyond the question of immigration. From the influence of Big Pharma to the NRA, most Americans feel that Washington D.C. is a place only reserved for special interest groups, and not ordinary Americans. We joined more than 50 other TPS committees from California to Massachusetts to raise our voices, march from the White House to Congress and meet with our elected representatives. On February 12, 5,000 people — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez D-NY and Rep. Ayanna Pressley D-MA — participated in the march.

Over half of our delegation was made up of young people, including Dreamers and children of TPS holders attending UC Berkeley and other universities. As one parent shared with Congress, “We have been here for 19 years. We bought a house and became parents of three beautiful children. We rejoiced when our eldest daughter graduated with honors and was accepted into her dream school, UC Berkeley, to pursue her own dreams as a first-generation American. We are proud to say that with our faith, hard work and the opportunity given to us through TPS, we were able to achieve the American dream.” I witnessed these courageous community members looking their representatives in the eye, and providing them with the moral clarity and collective dignity needed to fight the good fight. I invite you to celebrate the fact that for one day, the halls of Congress were walked not by special interest groups but by construction workers, painters, carpenters and students who were passionately sharing their stories and fighting for their lives.

Their efforts were not in vain two months after our return from D.C., there are two bills in the Senate and one in the House that, if passed, would create a path to permanent residency for qualified applicants. Fellow Berkeley residents need to do whatever they can to urge lawmakers in California or in their home states to support these new laws swiftly. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) is the most comprehensive bill and would provide a path to permanent residency to qualified Dreamers, TPS holders and Deferred Enforced Departure individuals. The SECURE Act (S. 2144) offers TPS holders a path to permanent residency and the Dream Act of 2019 (S. 874) would protect Dreamers.

Enacting legislation is the only way to prevent the tragic separation of families, including nearly 300,000 U.S. citizen children. We must speak out to ensure that tax-paying and law-abiding members of our community including thousands of UC Berkeley students and their family members will not be deported to crime-infested or war-torn countries where their lives will be in grave danger. It is vital that UC Berkeley students and citizens get involved in this effort.  Achieving legislative change in Congress requires passionate civic engagement and tireless legwork by a nonviolent and diverse movement dedicated to true and full democracy.

The University of California, Berkeley should join this fight by passing a resolution in support of the three bills in Congress designed to provide a pathway to residency to qualified holders of TPS and DACA. Such a resolution may be legally nonbinding and only symbolic, but it would send a clear message to UC Berkeley students and their families that the campus is on their side in these trying times and that it recognizes the urgent need to protect DACA and TPS as exemplary models of successful immigration programs. In fact, UC Berkeley can lead a wave of resolutions passed at other UC campuses, since California is one of the states that has immensely benefited from the skills and labor of TPS holders.

You don’t have to travel to D.C. to realize that our immigration system is broken because it is designed to benefit a select group of self-serving investors with no loyalty to the country that instead punishes those who have helped to build the United States. This is not a Democratic or Republican point of view, but an American one. Please take action!

Aria Fani is a doctoral candidate in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley and an immigration rights advocate at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant in Berkeley.