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ICYMI: Facing Work Disruptions, TPS Holders’ Futures Remain in Flux as Consequences of Trump’s Mass Deportation Policies Take Hold

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NYT: Salvadorans, Washington’s Builders, Face Expulsion Under Trump;

AP: Advocates Say Salvadorans Encountering U.S. Work Permit Issues

The New York Times is bringing into focus the real and traumatizing consequences of President Trump’s immigration policies. As reporters explain, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, like the hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the Washington D.C. area who are the backbone of the construction industry, are having the rug pulled out from under them as the administration relentlessly works to terminate their status. TPS holders in Massachusetts have already reported disruptions to their work permits.

Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice, said:

The goals of this administration on immigrants and people of color are to prevent people from coming here and to remove those who are already here by any means necessary, without regard to whether that policy is good for our country. Immigrants who have been living and working here legally for decades like Salvadoran TPS holders, many of whom are skilled workers and have dedicated their lives to constructing our cities and homes, are now facing challenges with their work permits and driver’s licenses along with the ongoing fear of family separation and possible deportation if and when their TPS status is stripped from them.

This is outrageous and undermines American communities and the economy. TPS holders are essential members of our communities who have built homes and highways, work long hours, pay taxes and raise their families in peace. In a metropolitan area like mine in Washington, D.C., 20% of the construction workforce are working legally under TPS and that’s been true for decades. To let our neighbors’ immigration status expire is to cut out essential members of our American family with no regard for their safety, their future, their families or the businesses they have started or helped through their labor. But that’s part of the plan. The nation-wide panic that will ensue as hundreds of thousands of people are stripped of their ability to work legally will have repercussions throughout the country, but particularly in cities and states and industries with large TPS populations. 

In order to pursue Trump’s agenda of removing status from those with deep roots in the United States, he is willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of citizens, the strength of American communities, and the fabric of communities that unite us as a country.”

See the New York Times’ Nelson D. Schwartz’s reporting for an example of the ripple effects across the United States if Trump is allowed to end TPS and TPS holders are not provided a permanent solution:

Tens of thousands of workers in and around the capital were here legally because of adversity in their homeland. Now they are fighting to stay.

A few minutes before going to work deep beneath Washington’s streets, the Salvadoran construction workers checked off the projects they had built for the city’s residents: storm water tunnels, new Metro lines and train stations, and people-movers at Dulles International Airport.

Now these workers are at risk of losing their jobs and being removed from the United States. They are among 400,000 immigrants from six nations whose legal immigration status, based on violence or environmental disaster in their native lands, was revoked last year by the Trump administration, which argues that conditions there have improved enough for them to return.

The administration’s decision will cause economic ripples in other cities, but few will feel it more directly than Washington. Roughly a fifth of the capital’s construction workers are in the United States because of the program, known as temporary protected status.

…Construction appealed to new arrivals from El Salvador because the jobs did not require special skills or knowledge of English, said Abel Núñez, the executive director of Carecen, a social services organization for Latino immigrants. “The construction industry was booming and these people wanted to work,” he said.

Temporary protected status does not provide a path to citizenship, but most of these workers never thought they would face deportation. They have been in the United States legally, for nearly two decades in many cases. Some have bought homes and cars and have settled into middle-class lives. Many have children who are American citizens.

There are nearly 46,000 people under the program in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal group that opposes the Trump administration’s move. Over all, the Washington area is home to nearly 200,000 Salvadorans, the largest group of foreign-born residents in the region.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Alexander Garray, who has temporary protected status and spends his days 120 feet below Washington, boring a huge tunnel for water and sewage that will result in cleaner rivers in the region. “I pay taxes, I’ve never had a problem with the law, and I own a home. I don’t understand why they are trying to kick us out.”

… The decision to deport workers who have been in the country legally with temporary protected status strikes Dennis Desmond, a union official, as ironic because some of them have been hired to work at sensitive locations like Fort Meade, Md., the headquarters of the National Security Agency.

“They’ve been allowed to work on these critical projects but now it’s like they are not fit to remain in the country,” said Mr. Desmond, the business manager of Local 11 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. He estimated that 20 percent of his union’s members were in the United States under the temporary protected status program.

… The workers, however, say that it is unthinkable for them and their children to leave for El Salvador, which is mired in poverty and gang violence, and the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network persuaded a federal judge in San Francisco to issue a preliminary injunction in October blocking their deportation.

… Ever Guardado, 38, came to the United States from El Salvador illegally through Mexico in 2000 after he was unable to find work at home. When the government offered protected status for Salvadorans the next year, he signed up.

Mr. Guardado said the administration’s decision to end his protected status had put his life in limbo. “I never thought they would take it away,” he said. “Now I’m scared every day.”

Although he had no experience in construction — he had worked on farms back home — other Salvadoran immigrants helped him find jobs on building sites. “I could see I could make money,” Mr. Guardado said.

“I thought I would be secure forever,” he said. He earns nearly $30 an hour working on transportation projects, owns a home in Sterling, Va., and has three children, who are United States citizens.

Nationally, construction is the second-largest employer of those in the program, employing some 44,000 people. Only companies that do building-and-grounds maintenance have more.

Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, said that construction in Houston, another center of Salvadoran immigration, would also be threatened if the program were terminated. Nationally, he said, more than three-quarters of construction firms say they cannot find enough workers.

“We don’t want our children to work in construction, but we don’t want people to come from overseas and do it either,” he said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Mr. Garray, the tunnel worker, came from El Salvador in 2000 on a tourist visa to visit his sister and mother. There were few job opportunities to go home to, and he soon found work in construction in Washington.

… “I think about it all the time,” Mr. Garray said before heading back into the tunnel. “Morning, noon and night. Even in my dreams.”