Massachusetts activists urge renewal of protective program for refugees from Honduras, Haiti and elsewhere

Publisher: 
Mass Live
Author: 
Shira Schoenberg
Publication Date: 
November 8, 2017

 

Activists rally in favor of an extension of the Temporary Protective Status program in front of the Massachusetts Statehouse on Nov. 8, 2017.

Activists rally in favor of an extension of the Temporary Protective Status program in front of the Massachusetts Statehouse on Nov. 8, 2017.(SHIRA SCHOENBERG / THE REPUBLICAN)

BOSTON — Yesy Carbajal came to the United States from Honduras after Hurricane Mitch devastated the country in 1998.

She is now a construction worker living in Massachusetts with a 3-year-old American-born daughter. She has no home in Honduras, so if forced to return, she worries that she would end up on the streets.

I cannot take my daughter to a dangerous place in the world, Honduras. She’s American, she deserves to be in her country and she deserves her family,” Carbajal said.

Carbajal is one of approximately 7,800 Massachusetts residents from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti benefiting from Temporary Protected Status, a designation that temporarily lets residents of certain countries remain in the U.S. because conditions in their homeland are too dangerous to return. These Massachusetts beneficiaries have 5,300 American-born children.

Countries can gain TPS status due to an armed conflict, environmental disaster, epidemic or other temporary condition.

Currently, residents of 10 countries are eligible for TPS status in the U.S.

However, the program needs to be regularly extended, if conditions in the country warrant an extension. President Donald Trump’s administration has shown signs of wanting to roll it back.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced Monday that the administration is ending TPS for Nicaragua as of Jan. 5, 2019. Any Nicaraguans in the U.S. on TPS will have to apply for another legal immigration status or leave.

Duke announced that the designation for Honduras will be renewed until July 5, 2018, while she gathers additional information to determine whether to extend it or terminate it.

Recognizing the difficulty facing citizens of Nicaragua - and potentially citizens of other countries - who have received TPS designation for close to two decades, Acting Secretary Duke calls on Congress to enact a permanent solution for this inherently temporary program,” the Department of Homeland Security wrote in its announcement.

TPS is also scheduled to expire for Haitians in January, and the entire Massachusetts U.S. Senate and congressional delegation, all Democrats, wrote a letter to Duke and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging the administration to extend the program.

Haiti is a nation in distress,” the members of Congress wrote, citing the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and an earthquake in 2010. They wrote that the country is facing a cholera epidemic and infrastructure that never recovered.

The congressional delegation also wrote to Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, urging him to support extending TPS for immigrants from Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador. A Baker spokesman said the governor “fully supports the Temporary Protected Status program as a primary means for escaping disaster.”

On Wednesday, the Latin American immigrant organization Centro Presente organized a rally outside the Statehouse to urge the state Legislature to pass a resolution in support of the federal government extending TPS. Centro Presente argues that TPS beneficiaries have lived in the U.S. for years and worked here, contributing to the state and national economies.

Jose Omar Rodriguez, of Honduras, came to the U.S. in 1998 and stayed through TPS. He does paint and body work on cars for a company that works for dealerships. He said his life took a “180-degree turn” when he came to the U.S.

Honduras, he said, is one of the most dangerous and crime-ridden countries in the world. “Here, you get the chance and possibilities to make life better for you and your family,” Rodriguez said.

Three municipalities - Boston, Cambridge and Somerville - have passed resolutions supporting a TPS extension.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said for beneficiaries, TPS has been “a lifeline against fear of deportation, fear of having to go back to a country or their homeland of origin where conditions may be unhealthy, unsafe or uncertain.”

 

 

Link to Article: