tags: , , Press Releases

TPS Holder: “I Feel Like an American Person”

Share This:

TPS Holders Celebrate Temporary Relief, Their Futures Remain in Limbo

In a powerful piece, Jennifer Medina of the New York Times gives Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and their families the opportunity to give voice their hopes, fears and experiences as the Trump administration seeks to deport them and a federal Judge imposes a preliminary injunction against doing so.

As a wave of temporary relief washes over TPS holders and their families, many are still left to wonder what will become of their legal status in the coming months.

Excerpts of the piece are below and can be found online here:

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the Trump administration could not immediately end special protections for people from those countries, which have been ravaged by wars and natural disasters.

The immigrants’ ultimate status in the United States remains in limbo, but the ruling means that they can continue to live and work legally in the country, as many of them have done for decades. More than 263,000 Salvadorans, nearly 59,000 Haitians, more than 5,000 Nicaraguans and more than 1,000 Sudanese have the designation, known as temporary protected status, which alone does not offer a path to permanent residency.

… Orlando Zepeda said he was never truly worried about being forced to leave the United States, where he has lived for nearly 25 years. Mr. Zepeda, who came from El Salvador when he was 18 and is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, first became involved in immigration advocacy in 2012 and said he felt certain all along that the law was on the immigrants’ side. Worrying, he said, is a waste of energy.

“We have to fight,” Mr. Zepeda, 51, said. “This is a country of just laws, with a fair process for justice. You have to fight for it. We can either be afraid or we can fight, and it is much more effective to fight.”

… “I fight for my children and they are fighters too,” said Mr. Zepeda, who also has a 13-year-old daughter. “They don’t know my country, they have never been there. They have an education here, a life here.”

… Julio Perez said he felt like an American, even though his immigration documents say otherwise.

… “The termination of T.P.S. has been devastating,” Mr. Perez said. “Right now, we are worried about the future. It is uncertain. We don’t know what is going to happen.”

He wouldn’t recognize El Salvador now, he said.

“I was a young man when I left my country,” he said. “Half my life I have lived here. I raised my family here. So going to my home country would be like migrating to a new country that I’ve never been.”

“I feel like an American person.”

… Rony Ponthieux, 50, came to the United States from Haiti in 1999 and applied unsuccessfully for political asylum. He received T.P.S. in 2010 and is now a registered nurse working with respiratory patients at Jackson Memorial Health, Florida’s largest public hospital system. His wife, Marjorie, also a T.P.S. recipient, is a private nurse assistant, he said.

The couple has two American-born children, Christopher, 18, and Ronyde Christina, 11, a T.P.S. activist in her own right who recorded a video of herself last year pleading with President Trump for extended protections for people like her parents. South Florida is home to the largest population of Haitians outside of Haiti.

… “It’s a different country. It’s destroyed,” said Mr. Ponthieux, who lived in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

… Mohamed Ali of Brooklyn learned of the judge’s ruling from a local Sudanese community group.

… Mr. Ali, a Zaghawa tribe member, said he was living in Kutum, Sudan, when he fled the violence in his home country in 2003. His father and brother were murdered in what he called the genocide by the Sudanese government. He ended up at a refugee camp in El Tina, on the western border with Chad, and he has lived in the United States since 2006.

“I don’t have a choice,” he said in a whisper. “If Trump suspends T.P.S. and they send me back to Sudan, that’s like sending me to hell — to death.”