By Jair Bautista
Long before Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a similar relief program called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was established in 1990 to provide refuge to people from countries plagued by war, natural disasters, and other unlivable conditions. About 300,000 of TPS beneficiaries are from Central America and Haiti alone and have been living in the United States trying to provide for themselves and their families for years.
While the Trump Administration rescinding DACA was met with outrage, the recent dismantling of TPS hasn’t gotten its due attention. Back in May, Haitian’s protected status was put in limbo when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to renew the usual 18-month reprieve and instead, announced a short six-month renewal with a doubtful future going forward. Haiti has still not recovered from the aftermath of its earthquake and hurricane disasters and is also dealing with a cholera outbreak.
Another blow to the program was dealt last week when DHS decided to not renew Nicaragua’s temporary protected status on the grounds that the acting Secretary Elaine Duke felt the country was no longer dealing with the effects of Hurricane Mitch. Nicaraguans currently on TPS will have a so-called “discretionary period” ending on January 5, 2019. Before that deadline, they have to leave the U.S. and get their affairs in order. The Trump administration is also considering rescinding TPS status for refugees from El Salvador and Honduras, affecting tens of thousands of people. The intended consequences of this will be family separation and this alone should be reason enough for the program to stay intact.
But the reasons this administration is spewing to justify the phasing out of these relief programs are nothing short of cruel and inhumane. Its true motive is to continue carrying out a nationalist, xenophobic, racist immigration policy agenda. And as justified as our fears are about extremist figures like Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and Jeff Sessions influencing the Trump administration, we shouldn’t be relying and depending on the so-called “moderate wing” of the White House to save us because, after all, they’re two sides of the same coin that ultimately want the same thing but are more polite and subtle in how they execute the same heinous policies.
The absence of TPS-related protests and actions in defense of the program in comparison to the groundswell of support for DACA show us exactly why we need to abandon the narrative of DREAMers somehow being more deserving of legal status than other members of our immigrant community. It’s a false choice that only the “profitable and productive” immigrants deserve a humane and fair standard of living because it is precisely because of those “undeserving” immigrants that we can claim to be “profitable and productive.”
There is a #SaveTPS national day of action on Wednesday in Los Angeles where a vigil will be held from 6-8 p.m. The lessons that we should be learning is that all immigrants—TPS, DACA, and no protective status—need to band together and build an unapologetic, united front demanding a decent life for all with no strings attached and without having to throw each other under the bus to get there. It’s not only possible, it’s necessary.