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Rafael Bernal at The Hill: Immigrants like TPS holders, Dreamers at risk of losing status during coronavirus pandemic

 

Rafael Bernal at The Hill reports that people across a multitude of immigration statuses including Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and Dreamers are now faced with the prospect of losing their legal status despite the fact that millions of immigrant workers are on the frontlines working to combat the novel Coronavirus crisis.

Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communications at America’s Voice, commented:

As the coronavirus ravages our nation, it becomes especially clear how immigrants are critical members of our communities. They are among the people working tirelessly across industries to keep Covid-19 at bay and to support the rest of the country through this pandemic. That’s why it’s outrageous that this administration is still threatening to deport the very workforce helping our country through this outbreak. TPS holders, DACA recipients, and immigrants across the country are keeping America afloat as this administration flounders in response to Covid-19. America cannot afford to lose these critical members of our communities or exclude them from our responses. It has never been clearer that we are all in this together.

Bernal’s reporting is excerpted below, and available in full online here

Thousands of people with legal status in the United States could inadvertently violate immigration law over the next few months, as the government agency that processes applications remains closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

… “Times of crisis point out the failures in the system you’ve got. And one of the failures in our immigration system is it’s not responsive to crises. Period,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

A main concern for immigration attorneys are foreign nationals whose work permits are about to expire, whether they plan to request an extension or leave the country.

USCIS, a largely paper-based organization, has suspended in-person service until at least April 1 to protect its staff, contractors and prospective applicants from contagion.

… DHS has ample authority to suspend deadlines and prolong work authorizations, according to Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel for USCIS.

… The final version of the Senate’s stimulus bill, based on a deal reached by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, does not include provisions on immigration.

… Still, whether or not stopgap measures are applied could have far-reaching consequences, not just for the applicants, but for critical sectors such as medicine, construction, tech and agriculture.

“The thing that worries me most is all the essential workers in these fields. The number of doctors serving us now who are foreign nationals is large, and nurses and pharmacists,” said Jaddou.

“Think about nursing homes and nurse aides, personal aides at home helping the elderly who are at very high risk,” she added.

Depending on how long USCIS remains shut down, the effects could be felt by millions of such workers.

They include more than 1 million yearly applicants for legal permanent residency, also known as a green card.

USCIS also manages work permits for immigration programs including DACA and temporary protected status (TPS), which together grant permission to work and live in the United States to about a million people.

According to the Institute of International Education, more than 1 million foreign students were enrolled in U.S. educational institutions in the 2018-2019 school year, and nearly 1 million people lived in the country on temporary work visas as of 2018, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute…