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Washington City Paper: Immigrants With Temporary Protected Status Are Fighting to Stay in the U.S.

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Local D.C. TPS Holder Fights to Stay with His Family

Hamil Harris for the Washington City Paper tells the story of a local D.C. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder, Donaldo Posadas Caceres, who has worked building bridges up and down the northeast coast for years after being accepted into an apprenticeship with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

After the Trump administration unlawfully ended TPS for hundreds of thousands of documented immigrants, including 262,000 Salvadorans, Donaldo and his wife must now worry about possible forced deportation and separation from their children. He and his daughter are plaintiffs in the lawsuit Ramos v. Nielsen that is, at this point, the only thing protecting TPS holders from being stripped of their legal immigration status.

His story raises the urgency for congress to immediately pass legislation that provides permanent status to TPS holders and dreamers.

The article is excerpted below and available online here.

For the last 20 years, Donaldo Posadas Caceres has strapped on a harness with a paint gun to scale the towers and steel beams of some of the tallest bridges in the United States.

… Posadas and his wife came to the United States from Honduras in 1998. Shortly after they arrived, he says, “my wife cried for days” because of the trauma she faced in leaving her family behind while she sought safety.

Once in Baltimore, Posadas was accepted into an apprentice program run by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and he learned how to paint bridges. His on-the-job training was painting the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which took six years to complete.

… The bigger challenge came down on the ground—nearly two decades later.

On Jan. 11, 2018 President Donald Trump criticized protections that the United States gives to immigrants from about a dozen countries that have suffered natural or man-made disasters, like earthquakes or war. When the U.S. government gives a country the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, immigrants from that country who are already living in the U.S. can stay here legally.

As an immigrant from Honduras, Posadas has lived in the U.S. under TPS.

… Some 262,000 Salvadorans, more than 30,000 of whom live in the D.C. area, have TPS. President George H.W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990 that allowed immigrants from certain countries to live and work in the U.S. until it’s safe for them to return home. Meanwhile, recipients have held jobs, had children, purchased homes, and built lives.

… He says that it hurts when he hears Trump talk about people who have come to the United States for a better life. He is proud of painting bridges from Maryland to New York. He still remembers the early years of his job, when he slept in the construction trailer so that he could start work at 4 a.m. His work day didn’t end until 8 p.m.

“I don’t think that he can understand how deep our commitment is to work in this country,” says Posadas. “It definitely hurts to hear him talk about us in that way because we are not the way that he says we are.”

Posadas says that he has placed American flags on top of some bridges. He’s also in a documentary called Bridge Brothers, which is about workers who repair bridges.

… Going forward, Posadas is planning to continue advocating. “We check the news every day when we wake up to see if there is any good news for people with TPS,” he says.

The hardest part has been talking with his children. “We have tried to explain it to them the best way that we can,” he says. But he has no words to express the possibility that they could lose their parents. He fears that he and his wife will be deported if TPS ends.

… James Boland, president of the 75,000 member International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, says that about 50 percent of the construction workers in the U.S. come from Latin American countries and that they are being wrongly targeted.

“When I immigrated to this country nobody called me a terrorist, but now we have a President who along with his followers are doing that,” Boland says. “We have a lot of immigrants in the union and in the D.C. area.”

Two weeks ago Posadas took part in a rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to seek permanent protections for TPS holders from 13 countries. Despite being pelted by freezing rain he said it was worth it. “It was so cold, I’m still feeling the cold,” said Posadas that evening. “But I feel hope because we have to achieve our objectives. To be honest, I thought about the consequences that could come for not taking a stand. Losing our TPS would be the worse consequence possible.”