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8 Months After Devastating Hurricanes, Need for TPS for Guatemala is Urgent

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A recording of the call is here.

Earlier today, potential Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and experts from Guatemala and the United States will join Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) to explain the urgent need for the Biden Administration to designate Guatemala for TPS. 

Country conditions in Guatemala have continued to deteriorate over the years with increased violence, corruption, environmental disasters and impacts of climate change —all of which has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. A TPS designation for Guatemala would not only provide protections from deportation for those who have fled dangerous circumstances, but would also prompt an increased flow of remittances back to Guatemala. The Biden Administration should act quickly to utilize TPS to save lives but also as a tool to help financially stabilize the country. This is the first in a series of events calling for TPS for Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. 

Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) said, “Recovery for a situation like this isn’t measured in days, weeks, or months, it is measured in years. Coupled with the devastating pandemic, terrible loss of life, this is just one horrific incident on top of another. So what can the U.S. do to try to help relieve some of that situation? One way is to grant TPS – to grant, at the very least, temporary status to the Guatemalans that find the U.S. their home currently, that are working, that have children, that are owners of small businesses, and that are part of our U.S. economy until conditions improve…TPS is just one tool in the toolbox that this Administration can use in order to grant some relief to the people that have already suffered so much.”

Pablo Huinil Escobar, a restaurant worker in Minnesota and potential TPS holder said, “I have lived and worked in the U.S. for almost 30 years, having worked in the restaurant industry as a cook and fed many people over the years. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would give me and many Guatemalans peace of mind and protection from deportation. I am an Indigenous man of the Maya Mam community, a deeply impoverished area in the country that benefits greatly from the remittances we send to our families. Guatemalans of Mayan heritage are faced with extreme poverty and the devastating impacts of recent hurricanes. It is time for Guatemala to be considered for TPS and we urge President Biden to take action. Guatemalans have very deep roots in the United States and have made countless contributions to this nation.” 

Ricardo Barrientos, Senior Economist, ICEFI (Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies) said, “President Giammattei took office in early January of 2020. From early on in his Administration, corruption has been a serious issue. By June, President Giammattei had dismissed all the highest officials in the health ministry. In the year that the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the country hard, the corruption was so bad that the President had to dismiss all the officials. So even before the impact of the hurricanes, corruption was a problem. Without the pandemic and before the storms, Guatemala has been very low on public health rankings. More than 50% of children suffer chronic malnutrition in Guatemala. There are very high levels of mother mortality in addition to very high rates of overall mortality at 26%. We also have a very serious problem in the education system. Only one out of every four young Guatemalans have the opportunity to go up through school. This means 1,900,000 Guatemalan children are out of the school system. All of these conditions have worsened due to the pandemic and storms, and are why TPS should be used to protect people fleeing these conditions.” 

Andrea Barrios, Colectivo Artesana said, “We are aware that TPS has benefited people who have been affected by violence in their home countries and affected mostly poor people in rural areas. In Guatemala there is a convergence of different factors that have become a problem due to the direct impact of the storms Eta and Iota, causing malnutrition and lack of health services, as well as a lack of agriculture for subsistence — all of which has become a more acute reality during the pandemic. Such communities are highly vulnerable, especially due to the increase of transnational imbalance because of drug trafficking, which becomes the closest reference for those people who have been left in abandonment. Eta and Iota’s heavy rainfalls flooded homes and crops in the short term, resulting in the loss of livelihood and the little assets that people have. In the long term, it has impeded their ability to harvest and cultivate their fields, turning them into swamps and useless. And the pandemic that has now extended to over a year, has worsened those vulnerabilities. People have to spend hours walking to reach and demand services from authorities that are supposed to provide health, food, and other resources. The benefit of the protection of TPS would be important in the context of aid offered to Guatemala and would be in congruence with the commitment shown by Biden and Harris in their message to Guatemala. TPS would bring relief to people and families already in the U.S.” 

Mario Barillas, President of the Association of Guatemalans Without Border said, “Guatemala is a country where job opportunities are scarcer every day and it is difficult to survive. In 2000, the rates of violence, organized crime, and inequality increased in Guatemala and pushed me and many other low-income people to leave our country. TPS will help me obtain a better well-paid job that will allow me to save for a dignified retirement. If President Biden grants TPS to Guatemalans like me, it would allow many of us Guatemalans the opportunity to continue raising our families here and in Guatemala. Additionally, TPS would give us access to better jobs, access to healthcare, and allow us to continue helping our communities.”

Oscar Chacon, Executive Director of Alianza Americas said, “We continue to keep our focus on ensuring that a TPS designation for Guatemalans becomes a reality. Guatemalans are still facing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Eta and Iota last November, including its economic consequences. These compounding situations only add to the already difficult situations many Guatemalans are faced with, including poverty and political instability. We join a network of organizations and urge the Biden administration to designate Temporary Protected Status to several Central American nationalities, particularly Guatemalans. The Biden-Harris administration has done well by granting TPS to Haiti and Yemen, now it’s time to extend the same benefit for Guatemala and other Central American nations.”

“If the Biden administration is serious about helping Central America recover from the back-to-back hurricanes and protecting immigrant communities, it must immediately issue TPS designations, including a new designation for Guatemala. Guatemalans should be able to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation and support their families still suffering from the storms. Communities in Guatemala and across Central America urgently still need help and aren’t getting it from their governments because they’re too corrupt. Designating TPS must be a part of the U.S. strategy to address the root causes of migration from the region and could provide countries impacted with some relief. Not doing so would destabilize Central America further and harm immigrant families and communities in the United States. This can’t wait,” said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Co-director of Latin America Working Group (LAWG)