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ICYMI: Ongoing Crises and Recent SCOTUS Ruling Highlights Urgency for TPS Designations in Central America

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A profile of a Salvadoran TPS holder underscores need for TPS designations and Dream and Promise Act instead of “patchwork or duct tape approach to immigration”

 In a new article for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Brian Lopez profiles Texas-based Salvadoran Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder Hipolito Zavala. 

Like the more than 400,000 TPS holders across the country, Zavala fled violence, poverty, crime, and food insecurity and has been living, working, and paying taxes in the U.S. for decades. While currently protected from deportation, TPS holders are living in a constant state of uncertainty at the whims of changing Administrations and Supreme Court rulings that jeopardize their prospects for a pathway to permanent residence and citizenship. The Trump administration attempted to end TPS for several countries and a recent Supreme Court decision blocks a pathway to citizenship for many TPS holders who entered the country without visas. This is another blow to the TPS and immigrant communities, which underscores the urgent need for Congress to act on passing the American Dream and Promise Act (HR 6) or other matters that would provide an avenue for long term TPS holders like Zavala to apply for citizenship.

The COVID-19 crisis has compounded deteriorating conditions in El Salvador and other countries in the Northern Triangle region still grappling with the devastating impact of Hurricanes Eta and Iota and widespread poverty and instability. The Biden Administration should now act urgently to designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and other countries to protect immigrants and their families already here contributing to the economy and serving on the frontlines as essential workers. Congress needs to pass the American Dream and Promise Act to provide permanent protections so that TPS holders are granted the stability, dignity, and safety they have earned after decades contributing to this country. 

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram article is excerpted below and available online here

In 1997, 19-year-old Hipolito Zavala made the trek from El Salvador to the United States. The journey was dangerous. He could’ve been caught or killed. But it would all be worth it once he made it to the U.S., he thought.

…Coming to the U.S. presented an opportunity to get away from a country that was coming off a devastating civil war. While the war ended in 1992, El Salvador was still experiencing civil unrest, high crime and poverty. To this day, those are the biggest factors of Salvadoran migration, according to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

Zavala is now 43, has three kids and lives in Mansfield, where he works at Klein Tools. He’s been able to work and make a new life in the U.S. because of the Temporary Protected Status designation given to Salvadorans.

But a recent Supreme Court decision sent shock waves to the thousands of TPS holders like Zavala who hoped to receive permanent status one day.

Earlier this month, the justices ruled that those who entered the country illegally and obtained TPS are not entitled to Legal Permanent Residency simply because they have a Temporary Protected Status designation.

Advocates and TPS holders hoped that the Supreme Court would have gone the other way and given those who entered illegally a pathway to citizenship after many have spent decades contributing to the country. In Texas alone, TPS holders contribute $1.4 billion annually to the economy, according to the New American Economy, a nonprofit that researches immigration. Across the country, that contribution balloons to $4.5 billion.

…“TPS has been for a patchwork or duct tape approach to immigration and it shines a light on our failures over the past 20 years to adopt comprehensive immigration reform,” Jones said.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Johnson, a Democrat whose district covers Dallas County, said in an email that the American Dream and Promise Act, which passed the House of Representatives in March, gives all DACA and TPS holders a pathway to citizenship.

“The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision earlier this month in Sanchez v. Mayorkas yet again reiterates the need for Congress to act and pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Johnson wrote.

…Zavala said although he’s known TPS is temporary he has lived in fear for the past 20 years. That’s because any administration can end the program. The Trump administration tried to end the program for Salvadorans but the action is being fought in court.

“We feel a bit protected, but one small mistake can be the end of it,” he said.