The Trump administration’s announcement today that it wil end the humanitarian program that allows some 263,000 immigrants from El Salvador to live here legally came as no surprise—under President Trump, the Department of Homeland Security already ended the Temporary Protective Status designation for 60,000 Haitians, 57,000 Hondurans, and 2,500 Nicaraguan migrants—but it’s still a dire situation.
Now the push to keep all TPS recipients in the country is expected to move to Congress. Both Republicans and Democrats have introduced bills that would extend permanent legal residency to more than 300,000 TPS holders and allow them to stay in the U.S.
But Congress hasn’t even been able to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. So passing legislation for TPS holders is a more daunting fight.
Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Dianne Feinstein of California introduced the SECURE Act, which would allow TPS recipients to apply for permanent residency. The bill was introduced in November and is still languishing in the Judiciary Committee.
Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida is also the lead sponsor of a bill introduced in October that would allow TPS recipients who arrived in the U.S. before to January 13, 2011 a path to legal permanent resident status.
The legislation is known as Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees (ESPERER) Act. (Esperer means “hope” in French.) The bill is currently under review by the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
“Congress has a responsibility to our constituents to address the status of both TPS immigrants and the DREAMer population,” Representative Curbelo said in a statement. He added that Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Haitian migrants had become essential parts of his South Florida community.
Young undocumented immigrants have crafted the “DREAMer” narrative over the past two decades, and now most Americans understand their experience and support legislation that would keep them in the U.S.
But the general public doesn’t really understand what TPS is or who benefits from the program, making passing legislation for TPS holders a much more complicated battle.
“Part of it is that those who benefit from TPS are not a marketable population. TPS recipients are not young; they came at an older age. They came straight to work. They don’t have that sad story that sells,” Jose Guevara, a young undocumented immigrant who was born in El Salvador, told Splinter last week. Guevera is seen as a “DREAMer,” but his mother who is a TPS holder doesn’t fit that same narrative.
There are an estimated 325,000 migrants from 13 TPS-designated countries living in the United States. If Congress doesn’t act, they’re all at risk of one day being forced to leave the U.S.
So far, United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigrant rights group, has said it will include TPS recipients in their demands to Congress.
“We will continue to fight the attacks from this administration and to push Congress to act and permanently protect the millions of immigrants who call America their home,” Adrian Reyna, a director at United We Dream and a potential beneficiary of the DREAM Act, said in a statement.