Of the estimated 411,000 immigrants in the U.S. with temporary protected status, more than 130,000 are essential workers of businesses that have stayed open during the pandemic.
In a new article for Courthouse News Service, reporter Cameron Langford highlights the stories of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders in Texas working in essential industries amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In Texas and across the country TPS holders are on the frontlines of combatting the coronavirus crisis, putting their own health and safety on the line even as they face uncertainty about the security of their future here. Gerson and Prem are two examples of the extraordinary sacrifices immigrants make for the U.S. even as the Trump administration attempts to terminate their legal immigration status.
As TPS holders continue to demonstrate how invaluable their presence is in this country, pending court decisions threaten to disrupt their ability to work and remain in the U.S. with their families.
Langford’s reporting is excerpted below and is available in full here.
Prem Limbu’s gas station co-workers did not want to risk their health. Rather than deal with a steady stream of customers, some likely infected with Covid-19, many of them quit last month, leaving Limbu working 12-hour days, seven days a week.
“Working at a gas station can be dangerous. I come across a number of people every day,” Limbu said.
He said he’s been working at the station in Dallas for 21 years. He started his own gas station a few years ago, but he had to close it due to uncertainty about his immigration status.
The uncertainty grew exponentially when Donald Trump took office in 2017 and put his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into action, refusing to extend the temporary protected status, or TPS, of people from Nepal, like Limbu, and immigrants from nine other countries who can qualify for the status.
….Of the estimated 411,000 TPS holders in the U.S., more than 130,000 are essential workers of businesses that have stayed open during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an April 15 letter to Trump from 38 Democratic and Independent U.S. senators urging him to automatically extend TPS holders’ work permits.
Despite the risks, Limbu sees his gas station job as a crucial cog in the nation’s response to the virus.
“I do worry that I might contract the virus. But I know that continuing to work means other essential workers are able to go to work. Like health care workers rely on me to fill up their cars and get to the hospitals,” he said through an interpreter on a press call Wednesday sponsored by America’s Voice. The Washington, D.C., nonprofit advocates for reforms to give the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
If Trump had his way, Limbu, 52, would be living back in Nepal with his wife and two children, or looking over his shoulder wondering when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would come arrest him.
….Should they lose their status, they will be easy targets for deportation given that the government has their information on file in their renewal applications. They will be returned to countries no longer familiar to them.
“What the courts will decide we don’t know,” said Limbu, the Nepalese gas station clerk. “After a few months, we may have to pack up and leave this country that I call home. So I urge Congress to extend our TPS status and work permits and support us in the fight to become permanent residents of this nation.”