5,600 TPS holders in MA Working at Forefront of the COVID-19 Response
A recording of the call is available here
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic and members of the Massachusetts TPS Committee joined Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and immigration advocates to discuss the critical role TPS holders have played during this crisis, and to continue advocating for permanent residency even as the Trump administration tries to deport them.
At least 5,600 TPS holders in Massachusetts are essential workers in the response to COVID-19. Their essential work has been sustaining towns and cities well before the pandemic took hold and they have tirelessly supported their communities throughout months of lockdowns and social distancing orders. Even so, the Trump administration continues attempts to uproot them and their family members from their homes, neighborhoods, families, and livelihoods.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), said, “At least 5,600 TPS holders in Massachusetts are essential workers in the response to the coronavirus. TPS holders are small business owners. They are hospital workers and nurses. They are working to keep all Americans safe during this pandemic. They are our beloved neighbors and friends. Our TPS frontline workers are essential – today during this coronavirus and everyday. That’s why we must provide them robust protections and benefits, including personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job, paid family and medical leave, and hazard pay. We need to make sure this critical workforce is compensated appropriately”
Roxana Rivera, Vice-President, SEIU 32BJ, said, “Our union represents about 175,000 workers up on the East Coast. In Massachusetts, we represent 20,000. They are janitors, security, and other maintenance workers in office buildings, in tech buildings, and in dozens of universities across Massachusetts such as Harvard and UMass. All of them are essential workers, and they cannot work remotely. They continue to risk their health to keep the general public safe. They go without hazard pay and many times with insufficient personal protective equipment. The majority of the workers we represent are from Black, Brown, and immigrant communities. These communities have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. It has been a very painful time for many families, as hundreds of the workers we represent have contracted the virus while working and unfortunately some have passed away.
Hundreds of the workers we represent have temporary protected status. After 10 or 20 years, this is their home. Through their hard work, many have bought homes and raised their children here and for them, it’s the only home they know. They are trying to hold hopes of going to college, and TPS recipients continue to show their investment in the wellbeing of this country–even more so now, being essential workers in the pandemic, they are making sacrifices on a daily basis for all of us. Even well before the pandemic, TPS recipients have already proven themselves as good citizens of our country and should be afforded a path to citizenship, not be ripped away from their families and everything they have worked hard for just because someone in the White House sees them as lesser for the color of their skin.”
Karla Morales, TPS holder and Pre-Medical School Student at University of Massachusetts, said, “My name is Karla Morales, I am TPS Holder and Pre-med student. I am currently on the pre-med track at UMass Boston with hopes of going to medical school and pursuing a career in medicine. My parents brought me to this country to do something great. Being a TPS holder has put barriers in my life and my aspirations to pursue my career in medicine. I am currently looking for jobs during the pandemic but employers do not want to hire someone who only has work authorization until January 4th, which has put a barrier on me getting into the medical school I want. I want to reach my hopes and dreams with dignity, the SECURE Act will allow for that. My family is like every family in America. We pay taxes, we have hopes, and we work hard to thrive in America.”
Cecy Villalobos, TPS holder and Small Business Owner, said, “Our family has had TPS since 2001 and a small business since 2005, which has provided a lot for our family. My children have been able to go to school and thrive, but due to our status have not been able to receive scholarships or student loans and so have had to pay for school out of pocket. We want them to achieve their dreams, and want to see their futures thrive and prosper.
I could not qualify for a loan from the Small Business Association that was being offered to all small businesses. They told me that they either didn’t understand what TPS was or I just did not qualify. I have paid taxes like every other American and have been punctual with all my payments. It is an injustice that I have been following all of the rules for small business owners, but am still unable to apply for loans. This is just another example why we need the SECURE Act to pass, for an extension to be granted, and permanent residency as soon as possible.”
Lucia Benitez, TPS holder and Janitor at Assumption University in Worcester, MA, said, “I live in Worcester and have worked at Assumption University for 16 years. During the pandemic, I have continued to disinfect classrooms, offices, and surfaces. The pandemic has affected all of us for different reasons. COVID has affected me a lot, especially in my family. My mother, daughter, and my grandson of 3 months live in New York and contracted the virus. I felt helpless that I could not help my family, but thankfully they recovered. As an essential worker, we help the economy of the U.S., but it is unfair that after years of working to aid this country’s economy, we are told to go home to El Salvador. I have family here, and I feel like an American at this point. I have been here for 20 years and have had two jobs, paying taxes every step of the way. TPS holders are not a burden to the U.S. economy, and we feel that we have earned our permanent residency here in the United States by working hard and helping the economy. ”
Nivra, Haitian TPS holder and Nursing Home Aid, said, “As a TPS holder, I work at a nursing home. Most people who work with COVID patients are immigrants and TPS holders. I have experienced the most stressful moments in my life. Every day I left my house, I expected to get sick because I was exposed to the virus with no mask and no gown. Later on, when they gave us regular masks, we had to keep it for three days and I had to use a trash bag over my clothes in order to protect myself. I have worked with people in their houses, and had to wrap a rag around my face. I have so much to do. A lot of my patients are gone. I went to get tested twice because I felt so sick. I couldn’t say no to work — it was my responsibility to take care of my patients. My children were so scared, but I had no choice. I kept myself in quarantine from my family. I couldn’t even hug them.”
Rev. Dioufort Fleurisaint, Chair of Haitian Americans United, said, “TPS recipients are the most exposed, least protected, have the lowest income, and delayed monetary government support. This puts in perspective the situation TPS workers are facing, as well as the great danger they are facing. The TPS community has been hard hit but deserves permanent protections.”
Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communications, America’s Voice, said, “We are here to discuss TPS holders, specifically in Massachusetts, where there are over 6,600 TPS essential workers. Senate Republicans finally released the Covid package and once again there is nothing in there to protect essential immigrant workers, undocumented workers, TPS holders, and their families.
Republicans did not include the automatic extension of workers permits for the thousands of DACA and TPS essential workers. There is insufficient money to keep USCIS afloat which is the foundation of our legal immigration system. This is essential for TPS and DACA holders and excludes hazard pay. Instead it protects big corporations when its employees get sick, and not the workers themselves. This is all set up against the background of TPS which is set to expire early next year.
Even as TPS workers provide essential work, including the 6,600+ in Massachusetts, many of whom are fighting on the frontlines against Covid-19, which has claimed the lives of over 150,000 Americans — the population of Springfield Massachusetts. TPS holders are being threatened and ignored. Today we are gathered to call for protection for these essential TPS workers and their families. ”