TPS holders demand Congress pass permanent residency protections by the end of the year

Washington DC - Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders gathered in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday to demand Congress pass legislation to guarantee them permanent protections in the United States.

National TPS Alliance members take part in a lobbying delegation urging members of Congress to include TPS holders in conversations around permanent residency.
National TPS Alliance members take part in a lobbying delegation urging members of Congress to include TPS holders in conversations around permanent residency.  © Screenshot/Twitter/TPS_Alliance

Doris Reina-Landaverde, a TPS holder from El Salvador, told TAG24 NEWS she can still feel the pain in her chest after learning last week that members of Congress are not planning to include people like her in legislation that would provide permanent residency to immigrants who have resided in the US for years.

Instead, lawmakers in the Senate appear to be restricting their efforts to Dreamers, or undocumented individuals who immigrated to the US as children.

TPS is a temporary legal status conferred upon nationals of designated countries who are already residing in the US when conditions like natural disasters or political instability make it dangerous for them to return. Like Dreamers, many TPS holders have lived in the US for decades, and even have children who are US citizens.

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TPS holders' status in the country was put in jeopardy when Trump threatened to end the program in 2017. They have struggled with a near-constant state of uncertainty since, not knowing whether their status would be renewed or whether their families would be able to remain together. The only thing guaranteeing their right to stay in the country is an ongoing lawsuit filed on behalf of TPS families.

Meanwhile, not having permanent residency makes it difficult for TPS holders to buy homes and take out loans so their children can attend colleges and universities, Landaverde said. The recent auto-extension of TPS through June 2024 will not solve those long-term problems.

That's why TPS holders braved the cold temperatures in Washington DC on Wednesday to demand Congress accede to their demands for greater security and opportunity in the country they call home.

"We are here to fight because we know we need to be included in the conversations the government is having now. We need to be included because we also deserve respect, and we deserve that they give us permanent residency so our families are not separated," said Elsy Ayala, a TPS holder in Washington DC.

"We are hoping the government will really act and not just keep giving us extensions. We need a resolution because for us to have to be in the streets all the time and not have any certainty is hard."

TPS holders lobby Congress to pass permanent protections

The National TPS Alliance lobbying delegation meets with Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
The National TPS Alliance lobbying delegation meets with Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.  © Screenshot/Twitter/TPS_Alliance

The National TPS Alliance is currently in the second week of its lobbying campaign to urge members of Congress to pass HR 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, with permanent protections for Dreamers and TPS holders. They are pushing elected officials to get this done during the lame duck session before the new Congress begins in January.

After learning that TPS holders would likely be excluded from the legislation lawmakers are negotiating, Landaverde told TAG24 NEWS, "We have a broken heart. We put faith in those conversations."

Landaverde said the delegation was told that Democrats are not pushing to include TPS holders because doing so might motivate Republicans to demand even greater investments in "border security."

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"I feel this is just an excuse because even if they just put Dreamers, [Republicans] will ask for those things," Landaverde said. While she is used to failed promises from elected officials, the long-time organizer and activist said the news came as a shock to many of her fellow delegation members.

"We have TPS holders who are for the first time coming to Washington to lobby. When they received this news, they cried, and they were so sad after these meetings. Even I tried to keep my tears and not cry, but I couldn't because I see them. It's their first time lobbying, and they put in a lot of hope," she said.

"As a leader, I do this work for five years, and I'm used to hearing these things, like, 'We are with you. Don't worry. We will protect you.' We are already hearing this, but for the new people, it's hard hearing that and it's painful."

TPS holders call for solidarity in their push for permanent residency

National TPS Alliance members gather for a press conference outside the US Supreme Court on December 14, 2022.
National TPS Alliance members gather for a press conference outside the US Supreme Court on December 14, 2022.  © Screenshot/Twitter/TPS_Alliance

No matter what politicians tell them during their meetings in DC, TPS holders said they refuse to back down and will continue to hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises.

Many TPS holders are members of labor unions that have done door-knocking campaigns to get politicians elected, Landaverde said.

Unless members of Congress act to protect them, TPS holders will speak with their families and friends who are able to participate in US elections and encourage them to rethink whether they support those politicians again.

"We know many of these unions invest not only money, but many of these union members also have TPS and have hope that these politicians are going to have a solution for us. We campaign for them; we knock on doors to get them votes so they can keep their positions. Now, we are here to demand that they follow through on the promises they give us each time they run for office," agreed Verónica Lagunas, a TPS holder who traveled from California to participate in the lobbying efforts.

"We have been working for more than 20 years in this country. We have helped support our families, but we have also contributed to the economy of the United States. We are essential people in this country, and we are also people who need this residency and need to have this stability," she added.

The National TPS Alliance is calling on people to support their campaign by contacting their elected officials to urge them to include TPS in the conversation on permanent residency and/or by donating to their organization.

Although the outlook may look grim at the moment, Jessica Girón, a leader in the National TPS Alliance committee in Morristown, New Jersey, left fellow TPS holders with note of hope on Wednesday: "The night is always darkest before the dawn. If things look dark now, that's because we may soon see the light and a path forward."

Cover photo: Screenshot/Twitter/TPS_Alliance

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