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‘Gave Me the Opportunity to Finish College’: How Expanding Work Permits for Long-Settled Immigrants Benefits U.S. Citizen Children Too

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Should the Biden administration use its authority under law to expand work permits and deportation protections to a larger number of long-settled immigrants, this relief will improve the lives of millions of U.S. citizen children as well. 

Research from FWD.us estimates that roughly 900,000 U.S. citizen children live with an individual currently eligible for TPS. Should the administration expand this humanitarian relief to additional nations where climate disasters, widespread violence, or political instability make it unsafe for nationals to return, “the total number of U.S. citizens living with a TPS individual would rise to more than 2.3 million, including nearly 1.3 million children,” the report said.

In addition to temporarily granting lifesaving protections, TPS has been a beneficial tool that boosts families and the economy. Many TPS-eligible individuals have lived here for years, raising U.S. citizen kids. Should the administration expand relief, these nearly 1.3 million kids could experience greater financial security, new educational opportunities, and improved physical and mental well-being, according to FWD.us fellow Cecilia Menjívar, who has spent many years researching TPS holders.

Marco, a Salvadoran TPS holder, said his protections allowed him to purchase a home and support his four children, all American citizens. One of his children now works as a specialized mechanic for Southwest Airlines and credits his dad’s protections for the family’s success.

“The biggest thing I’ve had in my life is that I have a wonderful family that has given me financial stability,” the 22-year-old said in the report. “I was able to go to school and because of their TPS, I knew that my parents were safe and would be there to pick me up from school when I was little. This was a huge thing growing up.” Jonathan, another U.S. citizen child of a TPS holder, said his dad’s protections allowed him to pursue his studies without the kinds of stresses that face some immigrant families. 

“My dad, through his labor, gave me the opportunity to finish college without worrying about paying for food or lodging, among other expenses,” he said. “I studied what I wanted because my parents’ financial support was enough. Now I work at the university and for a well-known private company as a biochemist.” Yanira, another U.S. citizen child of a TPS holder, said that because of her mom’s relief, “she was able to provide me with financial support so I could finish college … My mother has been the pillar of my life. I finished my degree and work as an architect now.”

Expanding this relief would be a massive boon to local and national economies. “In 2021 alone, TPS holders contributed more than $2.2 billion in taxes, including almost $1 billion to state and local governments,” the American Immigration Council said last year. “They also held $8 billion in spending power, which supports countless U.S. businesses when spent on items like groceries, haircuts, or rent.” 

Hundreds of thousands of TPS-eligible individuals are already working in industries facing key labor shortages, FWD.us said earlier this year. And, most importantly of all, relief would help keep families together. 

Last fall, the U.S. citizen children and grandchildren of essential workers made a personal plea to President Biden in a video released by SEIU and iAmerica. “The thought of not having my mother with me would break my heart, because of the bond I have with her,” one child said in the video. “If my mom had to leave me and my little brother, we wouldn’t have parents to guide us to our future,” said another child.

Graciela, a mom and TPS holder, knows the impact of this relief first-hand. “I have been able to provide 100% of the financial support my children need so they can focus solely on their studies and academic careers,” she said in the FWD.us report. “They have legal status (U.S. citizenship) so they were able to apply for financial aid to cover tuition. I am so proud that one is an architect, another is a teacher, and the other is an accountant with also a business administration degree.” Read the full report from FWD.us here.

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