Unions members join suit to save TPS

Labor organizations have joined immigrant rights activists in challenging the Trump administration’s decision to revoke temporary protected status (TPS) of immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

UNITE HERE, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) joined a coalition of groups supporting ten TPS holders and five children of TPS holders who on March 12 filed suit in a San Francisco federal court to overturn the Trump administration’s TPS decisions.

One of the plaintiffs is Wilna Destin, a Haitian immigrant and a UNITE HERE organizer in Orlando, Florida.

“For my daughters, America is all they’ve known,” said Destin, explaining why she joined the lawsuit. “Without legal intervention to stop the expiration of Haitian TPS, my daughters will be forced to either lose their mother to Trump or to sacrifice their entire lives and educational opportunities to move to an underdeveloped country that cannot absorb a wave of thousands of deportations. I am afraid of becoming a target by standing up to Donald Trump, but my daughter and I chose to do this to save our family.”

One of Destin’s daughters is also a plaintiff.

TPS, which was authorized by legislation passed in 1990, allows immigrants fleeing from political violence, war, repression, or natural disasters to live and work in the US without fear of deportation.

Since TPS became law, TPS holders have routinely had their status reaffirmed, but that has changed under the Trump regime, which in little more than a year has revoked TPS for 200,000 immigrants and their families.

“With the stroke of a pen, this administration upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people lawfully residing in the United States for years and sometimes decades,” said Emi MacLean, staff attorney for NDLON and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “But in terminating TPS in the way that it did, this administration was exercising authority it did not have.”

The lawsuit contends that the decision to revoke TPS was based on the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant, white supremacist agenda.

According to the lawsuit, the decision to revoke TPS “motivated by intentional race- and national-origin-based animus against individuals from what President Trump has referred to as ‘shithole countries’.”

In addition to resting on a foundation of racism and nativism, the lawsuit says that Trump’s revocation of TPS is unconstitutional and violates the Administrative Procedures Act.

Trump’s revocation of TPS is unconstitutional, argues the lawsuit, because it deprives US citizens, this case the children of TPS holders, of their constitutional right to live in the US.

“These American children should not have to choose between their country and their family,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, advocacy and legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, who also represents the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit also says that the Trump administration has violated the Administrative Procedures Act because it arbitrarily and without explanation departed “from existing practice” without any regard for the impact that the revocation will have on peaceful, law-abiding people who contribute to the public good with their hard work and taxes.


In addition to Destin, the other adult plaintiffs are members of the National TPS Alliance, CARECEN-Los Angeles, African Communities Together, which are immigrant rights groups, and IUPAT.

D. Taylor, international president of UNITE HERE explained why the union is supporting this legal action to save TPS.

“This lawsuit is about who UNITE HERE is as a union, and who America is at its core,” Taylor said. “We are proud to be a union made up of many immigrant families and deeply committed to the labor movement as a civil rights vehicle. As Donald Trump and his administration attempt to divide America with his racist policies, it is imperative that labor serve as the moral conscious of this country and challenge the illegal and immoral policies that would destroy working families.”





UNITE HERE holds week of action to support immigrant workers

UNITE HERE announced that during the week of March 5-9 the union will launch a series of actions to support immigrant workers in danger of having their DACA or TPS protections revoked.

“With the fates of hundreds of thousands of DACA and TPS holders remaining uncertain, . . . UNITE HERE is running major internal member education campaigns for DACA holders and is organizing externally against Trump’s racist immigration policies,” said the union in a statement about this week’s activities.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an executive order issued by President Obama. It allows immigrants who came to the US as children with their parents to work, study, and live without fear of deportation.

Last year, President Trump revoked DACA, and March 5 was supposed to be the day that DACA protections expired, but President’s Trump’s revocation has been suspended while courts review his action.

More than 800,000 people who have lived in the US most of their lives are protected by DACA.

“America has been my home since I immigrated here at 12 years ago,” said Celica Valdez, a UNITE HERE member from Monterey, California. “DACA allowed me to come out of the shadows and provide for my family. I’m a single mother, and my family depends on my union job as a hotel worker at Hyatt. If Trump wins with taking away my work authorization, my family would be destroyed.”

TPS, or Temporary Protected Status, has been in effect since 1990. It gives protected status to immigrants fleeing political violence, repression, war, or natural disasters.

It has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants who can’t live in safety in their own countries to do so in the US.

During the Trump administration 250,000 immigrant workers with TPS status from El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua have had their TPS terminated and been ordered to leave the US by 2019.

UNITE HERE has 270,000 members, many of whom work in the hospitality industry. According to the union, tens of thousands of our members are immigrant workers, some of whom are affected by President Trump’s DACA and TPS decisions.

UNITE HERE on March 5 began its week of mobilization in Washington DC by joining SEIU, another union with a large contingent of immigrant members, in supporting immigrant rights activists, who demonstrated near the Capitol to demand that DACA protections be extended.

At the Capitol complex, 87 people were arrested for committing non-violent acts of civil disobedience.

The next day, UNITE HERE Local 23 members in Indianapolis, Indiana joined a demonstration in downtown Indianapolis demanding that the state’s two US senators–Joe Donnelly and Todd Young–support legislation that would make  DACA permanent.

The demonstration was organized by Faith in Indiana, a faith community action group that advocates for economic and racial justice

Speaking to the demonstrators, Rev. Steve Carlsen, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, an Indianapolis Episcopalian church, criticized Indiana’s two US senators, Joe Donnelly and Sen. Todd Hunter, for voting in favor of a budget that continues to fund the government’s “massive deportation machine.”

Demonstrators locked arms and formed a human chain through downtown Indianapolis connecting the local offices of Sen. Donnelly and Sen. Young.

Twenty-three people, including at least one member of Local 23, were arrested when they refused police orders to disperse.

In Honolulu, UNITE HERE Local 5 got  an early start on the union’s week of action by holding an immigrant citizenship application fair on March 3 and 4.

The union trained 150 union and community volunteers to help eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship.

“The historic citizenship action is one of the largest in UNITE HERE international’s history, and resulted in 10 times the citizenship applications than the next largest citizenship fair in Hawaii’s history,” reported the union.


UNITE HERE said that it plans other action this week.

UNITE HERE members will be lobbying Congress to support proposals that will extend DACA and TPS protections denied by the Trump administration and will be conducting internal organizing forums to educate members about the current status of DACA and TPS.

“This week will also see UNITE HERE affiliates in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Nevada and as far flung as Indiana to New Jersey mobilizing in-state for a range of activities,” said the union.

Unions denounce TPS decision/recommendations

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.”