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Florida TPS Holder Frontline Worker Discusses Their Role in Combating Coronavirus While Under Threat from Administration

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A recording of the call is available here

Earlier today, Rony Ponthieux, a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder working on the frontlines of the Coronavirus pandemic in Florida joined immigration experts and advocates to discuss the critical role TPS holders have in protecting Florida communities during this crisis even as the Trump administration is trying to deport them.

In the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis, Florida TPS holders are part of the frontline response to combat the spread of the Coronavirus in the state. In Florida alone, 17,900 TPS holders are working in occupations at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, with 2,900 working in health care occupations. But the Trump administration is still trying to remove them from their communities despite their hard work and dedication to the country they call home, especially during this health crisis.

Marleine Bastien, Executive Director at Family Action Network Movement (FANM) said, “There are 300,000 TPS recipients in this country whose situation is exacerbated by this pandemic that is killing thousands in the U.S. and around the world. In Florida, they are at the forefront of this pandemic — they are our teachers, our nurses, our doctors. There are over 18,000 who are working at the forefront but at the same time are worrying if they will be asked to pack their bags and return to countries of conflict. They are deeply rooted in our communities, living here for an average of 22 years — they are mothers, fathers, grandparents. That’s why we are asking that they receive all of the same benefits as other workers — it is too hard for them to be worrying about their families while also worrying about being deported. We believe in these times of pandemic, TPS workers should be considered as the essential workers they are. We hope the Trump Administration will heed our calls, because for the thousands of TPS workers in Florida and around the world, home is here.”

Rony Ponthieux, TPS Holder and nurse, said, “I’ve been here for 21 years now, since 1999, and since 2006 I’ve been a nurse. I’m currently working for Jackson Memorial Hospital in a unit specialized for COVID-19. I put my life in danger and on the line to save American lives. All of my family is at risk because of me. My message to this administration, the Government, and Congress is to think about a fair treatment for TPS holders. Now is not the time to play games- we need real solutions. We are in a war, and the enemy is the virus. The soldiers are not the US army, they are the healthcare providers. There are many TPS holders on the front lines. They are the soldiers fighting the virus. It’s time for Congress to speak up and tell the President that we deserve to stay in this country and have permanent status. I want to ask Congress to work with the Trump administration to help us have permanent status.”

Yareliz Mendez-Zamora, TPS Coordinator at Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), on behalf of Lily, a TPS holder who cleans homes for the elderly shared, “I have spent the past 25 years living here in the U.S. as a TPS beneficiary with two children who are 17 and 6. I have been married for 20 years but unfortunately last year he was deported because there is no path to citizenship. My children lost their father and I lost my husband. I clean houses, but because of the pandemic and the fact that many of these houses belong to other people, I am unable to work in order to protect our health. We are important members of the community, and deserve protections.”

“The reality we are facing today is that the elimination of TPS is unfortunate and unnecessary,” said Paula Muñoz, Director of Campaigns at the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC). “It would affect the 300,000 who have fled wars and pandemics in their countries. The average TPS worker has lived in the US for 20 years — those are complete lives, with jobs and children. We need a real pathway to citizenship for TPS beneficiaries, and we need Congress to take action on laws like the Dream and Promise Act. Out families deserve better, especially as they are on the front lines and protecting our communities.”

Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice noted, “Florida TPS holders across the state are risking it all so that their fellow Floridians survive this pandemic despite the Trump administration trying harder than ever through litigation and anti-immigrant policies to get rid of them. They need relief, they need a pathway to citizenship. Senator Scott and Senator Rubio need to step up and be advocates for the industries and workers that are keeping the Florida economy moving forward and Floridians safe. Instead of continuing to lean on the President’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to fire up the Republican base, Republican lawmakers must recognize the vital contributions of essential TPS workers, guarantee that they are included in the Covid-19 relief packages, and secure their status in this country as frontline workers and heroes in this crisis.