By Jose Servin
There’s no one way to be an undocumented immigrant. In my short time organizing with Orange County Immigrant Youth United, I’ve met folks from all walks of life who are undocumented for different reasons. Some overstay their visas while others have a U.S. citizen parent, but can’t afford the legal fees to fix their situation. Speaking of the legal process, some immigrants get locked out of legalization forever because of one small typo or a wrong application sent. There’s also many folks who can fix their status, but got screwed over by lawyers. There’s even residents still at risk for deportation despite their status being “legal.”
The most overlooked of our kind, though, are people here on Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
People become eligible for TPS when the Secretary of Homeland Security decides that a country isn’t in a condition that allows their nationals to return home safely. The most recent example is Haiti. After the disastrous earthquake that crumbled the island in January 2010, President Barack Obama passed legislation allowing undocumented Haitians to remain and work in the U.S. Other countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Syria, and Nepal all currently fall under the TPS policy.
Unfortunately, TPS is both impermanent and imperfect. Haitian have recently been put on notice to prepare to leave, and it’s up to the discretion of Elaine Duke, the Secretary of Homeland Security, to decide whether they’ll have protections after the six-month extension of TPS status for them expires in January 2018. This notice comes despite the fact that TPS recipients are more civically engaged, have a higher rate of employment than the average American, and comprise a disproportionate amount of the labor force in jobs like construction, where 23 percent of TPS workers make their living.
While TPS grants its recipients the ability to work and live in the U.S without fear of deportation, it’s just a small step away from being undocumented. In a sense, TPS mirrors what DACA is to many; a short-term solution with an indefinite lifetime.
Hateful rhetoric from the Trump Regime paired with a rogue Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has both groups, DACA and TPS, fearing for their immediate futures. We all have in common the inability to vote, which makes us a particularly favorite scapegoat for politicians who are not accountable to us. Age restrictions, legal fees, and a very expensive and difficult-to-navigate naturalization process keep many of us undocumented but undeterred.
It’s important now more than ever to remain united in the face of this adversity and hold these groups accountable to stop them from terrorizing our communities. Undocumented folks of every kind must come together and put all politicians on notice that we will not continue to hide in silence while ICE rips apart families and defies the boundaries of morality time and time again. We’ll save DACA immigrants without leaving our TPS brothers and sisters behind.