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ICYMI: “Immigration advocates seek protections for TPS recipients. Many work on front lines of pandemic.”

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11,600 TPS holders in U.S. working across health care occupations combating virus; 131,300 in essential industries

In a new article for the Miami Herald, reporter Jacqueline Charles covers the experiences of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders working on the frontlines of the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic while also fighting to stay with their families here in the U.S. The Trump administration is continuing their attempt to terminate hundreds of thousands of TPS holders’ immigration status and separate more families, despite their heroic efforts to keep American communities safe.

Charles’ reporting is excerpted below and available in full here

As thousands of Central American and Haitian immigrants with temporary status in the United States continue to face the threat of deportation amid the coronavirus pandemic, immigration advocates are pressing the Trump administration to automatically extend work authorizations and to support legislation giving them a pathway to citizenship.

There are over 300,000 people currently benefiting from Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, advocates say. Of that number, over 11,000 are working in healthcare, fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, said advocates, quoting a recent study by the Center for American Progress.

“TPS holders shouldn’t have to worry about being kicked out of their homes, especially while they are caring for our communities and putting their lives on the line,” said Pili Tobar, deputy director for America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group.

Tobar and immigration experts with the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the Family Action Network Movement called on Republican senators Monday to support and pass the American Dream and Promise Act.

… “We need a real pathway to citizenship for all TPS beneficiaries,” said Paula Muñoz, campaign manager for Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We need the Senate and Congress to take leadership and search for a permanent solution such as the Promise Act…. Anything less would continue to throw TPS recipients in a cycle of waiting for expiration dates.”

While their work permits were renewed due to federal lawsuits opposing the Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS status for six countries, including Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, beneficiaries of the program still live a life of uncertainty. In the case of Haitians, for example, their documents will expire on January 2, which Miami advocate Marleine Bastien said is right around the corner.

TPS families, she and others say, deserve better, especially considering that thousands are working in essential jobs during the crisis.

Among them is Rony Ponthieux, who has been in the U.S. for 21 years. A nurse since 2006, Ponthieux currently works at Jackson Memorial Hospital in a specialized unit for patients with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

“I put my life in danger. I put my life on the line to save American lives. All of my family is at risk because of me,” he said.

Ponthieux said the administration and members of Congress should think about fair treatment for TPS recipients by making their status permanent. “It’s not time to play games,” he said.

“We are in a war and the enemy is the virus and the soldiers are not the U.S. Army. They are the healthcare providers, and I can tell you that many, many TPS recipients are on the front lines,” said Ponthieux. “They are the soldiers fighting this virus… and I am one of them.”

… “It is too hard for them to be thinking about saving lives and taking care of their families and in addition to that, to have to think about this looming date of early next year where they will probably have to pack their bags,” she said. “How do you ask people to pack 30, 40 years of their lives in suitcases and bags?”

And while she supports any “piece of legislation that will provide relief,” Bastien gave a strong push for the Promise Act, which she said has yet to receive the support of the administration as well as most Senate Republicans, including Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, whom she believes can “take leadership” on the matter.