Two unions criticized decisions by the US government that threaten to overturn the lives of tens of thousands of immigrant workers who had been granted temporary protected status (TPS).
On Friday, November 3, the US State Department recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) end TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua.
On Monday, November 6, DHS ended TPS to 5300 people from Nicaragua and postponed a final decision on the fate of 86,000 Hondurans, leaving them in a kind of legal limbo.
Maria Elena Durazo, general vice president of UNITE HERE, whose membership includes thousands of TPS recipients, many of whom work in the hospitality industry, called DHS’ decision “inhumane.”
Rocio Sáenz, SEIU executive vice president, said that the State Department’s recommendation was a result of “the anti-immigrant animus that has now infected the Trump Administration top to bottom.”
For decades, the US government has granted temporary protected status to people fleeing violence, political repression, or the aftermath of natural disasters in their home countries.
The US has designated 12 countries whose immigrants are eligible for TPS: El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan (whose TPS status terminates November 2018), Syria, and Yemen.
Currently there are about 435,000 people living in the US who have been granted TPS.
Granting TPS to immigrants means that they can live and work in the US without fear of deportation, and many TPS immigrants have done so for decades.
The US government regularly determines whether to extend TPS status to each designated country. Until recently, TPS extensions have been routine.
But on November 6, DHS decided to end Nicaragua’s TPS designation and gave Nicaraguan TPS recipients until January 2019 to leave the US.
DHS temporarily extended TPS for people from Honduras to July 2018, but according to Reuters, the agency said their TPS “could then be terminated,” leaving 86,000 people from Honduras with an uncertain future.
UNITE HERE said that DHS’ decision on Nicaragua and Honduras “could have a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of families and the US economy.”
“TPS recipients, like the thousands that our union represent, are dedicated and longtime employees, many of whom have been at their jobs for decades,” said Durazo.
“Because of the astounding cruelty and foolhardiness of Donald Trump and the Department of Homeland Security, . . . tens of thousands of lives could be ruined with this TPS termination,” continued Durazo, architect of the union’s national immigration campaign. “Ending TPS for Nicaraguan recipients or any others will forcibly tear apart American families, taking TPS recipients who have lived in the US for over twenty years from their American-born children, from their jobs, and from their homes.”
Sáenz said that the State Department’s recommendation to end TPS for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua has to be seen as a reflection of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant ideology
“Given the conditions in the affected countries, the State Department recommendation can only be understood in the context of politicization and anti-immigrant animus that has now infected the Trump administration top to bottom,” said Sáenz. “The TPS recipients whose future is at stake are long-term residents who have been living and working here legally for many years, working in stable jobs, paying taxes, supporting families, and otherwise contributing to their communities. They have more than 270,000 US citizen children and thousands of US citizen grandchildren.”
UNITE HERE said that people who fear that their lives could be turned upside down, should not give up hope.
The union said that it is planning a national political campaign to get Congress to protect the TPS status of people.
“The onus falls now on Congress to take action to save TPS to protect Nicaraguan recipients as well as recipients from Honduras, Haiti, and seven other countries,” said the union.
“UNITE HERE has run one of the most high-profile TPS campaigns in the immigration community over the past year,” stated the union. . . “And we will not end that work now. We will continue advocating for TPS extensions for Nicaragua and comprehensive pathways to citizenship for all immigrants in the upcoming budget fight and beyond.”