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Union Leaders, Experts and Advocates Call on Biden Administration to Make Wider Use of TPS

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See HERE for Link to Audio Recording of Today’s Press Call

Washington, DC On a pre-Labor Day press call held this afternoon, union leaders and members, experts and advocates gathered to call on the Biden Administration to widen its use of TPS, Temporary Protected Status, as an essential tool in strengthening labor rights and the U.S. economy. TPS allows people from certain designated countries to work legally after registering with the government and protects them from deportation.

President Biden redesignated TPS for Ukraine and Sudan earlier this month and advocates, including labor unions, are urging him to do more of the same, particularly to redesignate TPS for the so-called Ramos countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nepal) and deliver a new TPS designation for Guatemala, among several other countries that should be considered favorably for TPS. The speakers also took questions from reporters, including journalists from the New York Times, Associated Press, Politico and elsewhere.

Daniel Costa, Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research at Economic Policy Institute, “TPS strengthens the economy; there’s no question about it. TPS raises wages through the provision of work authorization to people who don’t have it. And having work authorization also means that workers will have labor and workplace rights that are actually enforceable, rather than just existing on paper. This is important because people who don’t have work authorization are more than twice as likely to be victims of wage theft. TPS would thus allow people to work, protect workers in many industries, and give people the ability to move to better jobs. That’ll lead to higher wages and improved workplace standards, not just for TPS holders but for all U.S. workers. New and updated designations of TPS will also boost the economy and create jobs – and we know this because current TPS holders already contribute tens of billions to the economy every year.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU, said: “Bidenomics is about growing our economy from the middle out and the bottom up.  Action on TPS fits right in with that because of the huge impact redesignating TPS for all countries that qualify would have on millions of low and middle income workers, who contribute billions to our economy through their collective productivity, wages and taxes. The Biden Administration needs to keep its commitment to working families and must not leave this economic and humanitarian tool on the table.”

María Barahona, a TPS holder, home care worker and member of SEIU-Local 2015 originally from El Salvador gave her remarks in Spanish (translated here by SEIU): “I’ve had TPS for over 20 years. I have three children, two with TPS and a US citizen. My history with TPS is a blessing to me and my children. It has improved our lives. My oldest son works with the federal government. My second son owns his own business. And my daughter is a law and medical student at the University of California, San Diego. We all work, and we pay taxes, and we have been a strong workforce as a family, continuously…I worked in health for many years. It is emotional work and very difficult. Since my clients need a lot of love, attention, and understanding. It is a job where my clients depend on me for everything. To get up, bathe, eat, dress, go to the doctor and many other things. There are many immigrant people in this job. Most of these people we care for do not have family and live alone. We are a very large workforce. And there are thousands of working families who need TPS to stabilize their lives and that is why I would like President Biden to take action so that other families like mine have the same opportunity.”

James A. Williams, Jr., General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, said: “Our union organizes and fights to represent everyone who works in our industry, regardless of their immigration status. We know many construction workers across the country are TPS recipients or potential recipients. It’s essential that action is taken on TPS to ensure immigrant workers’ rights are upheld. We see TPS as a key pillar of Bidenomics that goes hand in hand with the unprecedented investments in our nation’s infrastructure by this administration. By championing TPS, we can ensure our economy is one of inclusivity, fairness, and that acknowledges immigrants’ immense contributions, particularly building our nation’s infrastructure.  

Enrique Fernandez, General Vice President, UNITEHERE International Union, said on the call: “Our friend, Congressman John Lewis, used to urge his colleagues to stay morally grounded but strategically flexible. As a union, UNITEHERE is committed to full immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship. But we also recognize the political realities around immigration policy we have to deal with at this moment in our country’s history. The re-designation and expansion we are calling for in TPS is a way forward for thousands of our members and their families. Our unions want to see action on TPS. Our communities want to see action on TPS. Our employers want to see action on TPS. We urge President Biden to pick up that pen and take action on TPS today.”

Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice, served as the moderator and stated, “We need a modern immigration system that allows people to come with visas to work and to join families in a controlled and orderly system; that allows those who live and call America home to be able to get legal status and a path to citizenship; and that we need humane, sensible enforcement of our immigration laws. We also know that Republicans in Congress have so far delayed or derailed such a modernization of our immigration system for decades… Because this is not about to change, we need President Biden to use every tool at his disposal to help alleviate the problems caused by an immigration system that is decades out of date. This includes speeding the process of delivering work permits to people who could be contributing fully to our economy; This means helping American cities incorporate and integrate immigrants fully into the American fabric; And this includes taking measures granted to the President by Congress – such as TPS – to benefit the U.S. economy and advance the national interest.