28,000 Essential Workers with TPS in California Alone
In a new article for KQED, Farida Jhabvala Romero highlights the stories of essential workers with Temporary Protected status (TPS) working to protect their communities throughout California and across the country during the Coronavirus pandemic. Romero describes the challenges Fernando Flores, and others like him, face as the Trump administration fights to terminate their immigration status, which could lead to their deportation. Flores, a sanitation worker with TPS from El Salvador, has lived in the U.S. for 21 years.
Romero’s reporting is excerpted below and is available in full here:
As millions of Californians were ordered to stay home in March, Fernando Flores, 44, kept heading to work six days a week at San Mateo County’s only active landfill.
… “I’m proud to be part of an industry that’s essential,” Flores said. He’s been an employee of the waste management company Republic Services for about 16 years. “It’s a service that’s needed every day. We don’t stop.”
But Flores and more than 100,000 essential workers who are immigrants could be at risk of deportation, as President Donald Trump’s administration continues a years-long fight to end the humanitarian protections that allows them to live and work in the U.S.
… “These are the people that are keeping our country moving right now,” Svajlenka said. “They are the people that keep our grocery shelves stocked, the people that keep our streets clean, and they are doing this knowing that at any moment their future in the United States could change.”
… starting in 2017, DHS issued a series of orders ending this protected status for most holders, claiming the humanitarian relief was no longer needed because the original conditions that led to the designations had been resolved.
TPS holders and their U.S. citizen children in California and other states sued, arguing DHS broke practice with previous administrations, and its terminations of the program were unlawful and motivated by President Trump’s hostility against black and brown immigrants.
The courts have kept the program alive while they consider the dispute, but that could change with a highly anticipated ruling by a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, which is expected soon.
… Last spring, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced the American Dream and Promise Act, which would offer a path to U.S. citizenship to beneficiaries of TPS and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The House of Representatives passed the bill, but the Senate has not taken it up yet.
“The prospects are not easy,” said Yanira Arias, national campaign manager with Alianza Americas and a TPS holder from El Salvador. “We are paying attention to the political landscape and see that it may not work in our favor… But we continue to push back.”
Flores, the garbage truck driver, said he often feels that TPS holders are just not a priority for federal lawmakers, particularly as the country faces the pandemic and historically high unemployment.
“Nobody cares about us, not Congress nor the President,” said Flores.
His partner and young daughter, who just finished elementary school, are U.S. citizens who depend on his salary, he said. That income will disappear if he has to return to El Salvador, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, according to Human Rights Watch.
“It would be devastating, emotionally and financially,” said Flores, who has lived in the U.S. for 21 years.