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Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota TPS Holders & Advocates Discuss Immigrants Living Under Constant Threat from Trump Administration

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A recording of the call is available here.

Earlier today, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was joined by Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and immigration advocates in Minnesota to discuss living in a pandemic under constant threat from the Trump administration and issue a call to action for Congress to provide a permanent solution for TPS holders and broader immigrant communities. Over the past few months, the Trump administration has escalated the attacks on immigrants that have been a central part of his administration from day one under the guise of responding to a pandemic he continues to downplay and dismiss. In Minnesota, Black immigrants have also had to grapple with the effects of being at the epicenter of a national uprising for racial justice in the midst of systemic state violence. TPS holders, like all immigrants, are essential to their communities, and instead of allowing this administration to target and deport them, the Senate needs to be working to permanently protect TPS holders’ safety, families, and livelihoods, following the House passing the Dream and Promise Act (HR6) last year. 

Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), said, “I want to thank all the TPS workers here today who are providing essential work for all. They are in our hospitals, in local businesses, and across the nation providing essential work. Holding people in suspense for what could be life or death is unconscionable cruelty. Thousands of Somali TPS holders are being held in suspense. Somali TPS essential workers have escaped Al Shabab and if forced to go back to Somalia would have a target on their backs. El Salvadoreans have built a life here. As many know, El Salvador is one of the most  dangerous countries in the world. Forcing them to return would be a death sentence. The Trump administration decision would disrupt thousands of lives. In the House of Representatives we want to provide a path to citizenship and to fight against the cruelty of this administration. We have passed the DREAM act and the HEROES Act which have sat on the desk of Mitch McConnell. Despite who is in control of the Senate, I will never stop fighting for a path to legal citizenship for all immigrants. As someone who has been told to go home by the president of the United States I know the hate. To all recipients of TPS, DACA, and all immigrants, know that I will always be an advocate for you in Congress.”

Mustafa Jumale, Policy Manager, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) & Co-founder of Black Immigrant Collective of MN, said, “TPS holders are part of the social fabric of Minnesota and this country; many are on the front lines helping our state combat COVID-19. They are business owners, racial justice advocates fighting for Black Lives, students; health care works, etc.. they are in every sector of our economy and culture. They have been in this country more than I have been alive.  I have worked on the renewal campaign for Somali TPS 5 times, if not more, with the last one being this past January.Unfortunately, this racist & xenophobic administration only extended it for another 18 months–meaning undocumented Somali folks aren’t eligible to apply for TPS, only current recipients can re-apply. Mind you, Somalia is currently going through a civil conflict, humanitarian crisis, drought, and now COVID-19. It’s not fair for TPS holders to worry every 18th months whether this racist and xenophobic administration will extended TPS. We need Congress to pass permanent solution for TPS holders, DACA, and for the other 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.”

Yonis (pseudonym), Somali TPS holder, Local Delivery Driver, said, “I have been living in Minneapolis with my wife and four kids for 21 years. Through my wife, I applied for residency through marriage, but have not been approved. About five years ago, my lawyer suggested that I apply for TPS, which I did and have been getting a work permit renewed every year. However, last year when TPS for Somalia was extended, my work permit was not renewed. I continue to be in limbo. I am sharing my story with you today so that those of you who make decisions about immigration can understand that it impacts families like mine. Even though I cannot vote, I believe in making sure that the best people who represent us are elected. Because of that, I have worked as a community organizer. I have worked with members of my community who are citizens to make sure that they can not only vote, but also vote for the best candidate.

This work that we have done is part of what makes Minneapolis a beautiful cultural community with cultural diversity. Over the years I have had different types of jobs. I co-own a barbershop, I have run a transportation business and I now work as a delivery driver. As you can see from my story, my family and I have settled in Minneapolis. We are happy here. We want to continue living in community. This is home for us.”

Carolina Ortiz, Communications Director, COPAL MN, said, “I am one of the 12,491 DACA recipients that call Minnesota home, so I share many of the same struggles of TPS holders. I am the Communications Director of COPAL, a Latinx organization with a mission of uniting Minnesota’s Latinx community.”

Marvin Batres, TPS Holder, Owner of Rug & Flooring Installation Company, said, “We have found ourselves in limbo, under threat of being forced to go to a country I have not been to in 20 years — a country we do not know anything about. It is insane to think about packing 20 years of living in America in a box. TPS recipients are dealing with the coronavirus and the uncertainty of being sent back to countries they have not been to in years. 9 families depend on my business. My business has been affected by coronavirus and TPS, and because of that, the income of 9 families has as well. TPS holders have been living in uncertainty for years. The TPS community is hard working: we own businesses, pay taxes, and help others. I wish for the Secure Act to be passed for me and this community.”

Jacqueline Batres Bonilla, TPS Holder, Administrative Assistant/Ministry Coordinator, Office of Christian Formation and Church Relations at Bethel University, said, “I was born in San Miguel, El Salvador, I was 11 years old when my parents decided to immigrate to the U.S. because of economic struggle in my country, and I was granted TPS status after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck El Salvador in January 2001. Being a TPS holder has been a big blessing for me and my family, I was able to go to school, go to college, get a driver’s license, and have a professional career. I am very blessed to have been able to come to this country because right before I was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 I was granted TPS. This has been extremely important for me because living in Minnesota I’ve received the best treatment for the type of cancer I had. I probably would not be alive today if I had stayed in El Salvador. I have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years, longer than I lived in El Salvador. I have been able to establish a family business with my husband and I’m currently studying for my masters degree here.”

Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director, CAIR Minnesota, said, “I had a chance to speak with immigrants across Minnesota in rural America who are essential workers. I spoke with men, women, mixed status families, and essential workers. TPS holders and their families are critical workers in COVID-19. They are a core part of the food supply chain. They all live in fear about the threat of the program ending, the delays in getting their paperwork has added more stress to these current TPS workers. This administration continues to put families who have a path to legal status in limbo while waiting for court processes to be settled. TPS made sense when created, but the process is broken and these TPS holders need a pathway to citizenship. Fixing this system would have a tremendous impact on our country and our communities. Community leaders must speak up to make sure TPS holders are protected and that a pathway to citizenship is available to them.”

Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication, America’s Voice, said, “The daily policy and legal attacks towards immigrants are coming fast and furious under the guise of the coronavirus. Trump has ended TPS for many countries and with him in office there is no knowing how he will act towards TPS holders and immigrants. He is keeping these individuals that play a crucial role in our economy and who many are essential workers in a state of waiting and limbo.”