A temporary fix for enduring issues

Immigration rally outside the U.S. Capitol on March 5, 2018. MCC Photo/Tammy Alexander

A temporary fix for enduring issues
Erin Beidler, Domestic Policy Intern, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

In recent months the immigration conversation has been largely focused on the fate of nearly 700,000 Dreamers protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. However, another 300,000 people are now living in uncertainty under Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

TPS is granted to immigrants in the U.S. when it is determined that it would be difficult for them to return home due to ongoing armed conflicts, natural disasters or other extenuating circumstances. In January of this year the Trump administration announced that the TPS designation for El Salvador will end in September 2019. TPS holders from Haiti and Nicaragua will lose TPS next year as well and Sudan will lose its designation at the end of this year.

TPS was intended to be a temporary status that would allow recipients to return when conditions in their home countries improved. However, for El Salvador, TPS was renewed multiple times by both Republican and Democratic administrations and has been in place since 2001, nearly 17 years.

In this time TPS holders have laid down roots, built homes and started businesses here. Many have children who are U.S. citizens. TPS holders from El Salvador face the possibility of returning to a country they no longer recognize as home and where there are high levels of violent conflict between gangs and police.

Conditions within El Salvador are complicated by high levels of extortion, impunity and violence. U.S. citizen children of TPS holders who return with their parents are taken to a country they have never known and risk becoming targets of gang violence. About one fifth of El Salvador’s population of 5.7 million reside in the U.S. (about 1.1 million people). Conditions in El Salvador will not be benefitted by a mass deportation from the U.S.

Though TPS was intended to be a temporary status, the reality is that many TPS holders have been in the U.S. for several years and that deporting them will mean separating families. Some lawmakers are seeking to create a permanent fix for TPS holders that would allow them to get on a path to U.S. citizenship.

Under current law most TPS recipients are unable to change their status or apply for other visas even if they marry a U.S. citizen. Their only chance of avoiding deportation is a change to current laws or an extension of protected status for their country.

Our nation has always held up family values and this must not be forgotten in the context of TPS and the larger immigration debate. Deportation on this scale would split up countless families who have made our nation their home, contribute to our economy, and have become important parts of our communities.

In a time when the voices disparaging immigrants have increased, it is important that politicians hear from us that it is imperative to treat immigrants with compassion. Through Moses, God reminded the Israelites in Leviticus 19:33-34 that, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (NIV).

Urge your legislators to protect TPS holders from El Salvador and other countries.