Labor unions denounced the administration in response to a decision Monday that could result in the deportation of thousands of Salvadorans.
President Donald Trump has made immigration a cornerstone of his agenda with his administration taking an aggressive approach to the policy. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program has become one of the targets of the administration as it has looked to rollback the legal status of hundreds and thousands of immigrants.
The TPS program allows foreign nationals to stay in the country legally if they are unable to return to their home country safely. Labor unions and other groups have been fighting to save immigrants covered by the program, and they have denounced Monday’s decision which will end the protected status for 200,000 Salvadorans.
“The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador was made after a review of the disaster-related conditions upon which the country’s original designation was based,” DHS detailed in its announcement. “The Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”
The DHS is hoping to allow for an orderly transition by delaying the terminations until Septemeber 2019.
Labor unions have argued that ending the protected status for these immigrants could be disastrous for families, communities, and employers. They note that these immigrants have integrated into society and become part of their communities in the many years they have been here.
“DHS is taking nearly 200,000 law-abiding American immigrants and turning them from legal workers into targets for deportation,” Unite Here vice president Maria Elena Durazo said in a statement. “Not only will terminating TPS for 200,000 Salvadorian workers take away their livelihoods and the life they’ve spent decades building here, but it will tear apart hundreds of thousands of families with mixed immigration statuses, including many with American born children.”
Unite Here has been on the front line fighting to save these immigrants over the past year. The union has organized protests, launched petitions, coordinated with industry groups, and met with lawmakers to save the protected status for these immigrants. The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the country, has also worked to brings awareness to the issue.
“[The] decision will force hundreds of thousands of hardworking people who have lived in our country and played by the rules for decades into the shadow economy,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “This decision will not only destabilize families, communities, and workplaces, particularly in the construction, hospitality and service industries, it will undermine our freedom to fight together for better wages and equality at work for all working people.”
The AFL-CIO also tweeted that the administration is undermining families and entire communities. The union federation also encouraged its followers to call their representatives to demand they pass legislation that will help these immigrants. Congress has been considering a few proposals aimed to do just that.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) also took to social media to encourage people to fight back against the administration during the upcoming election in November. The union also suggested that there may be a racial component to the decision – noting that it follows a pattern by the administration which selectively hurt immigrants, people of color, and workers.
“SEIU takes this decision personally,” SEIU international vice president Rocio Sáenz said in a statement. “Thousands of people in our communities, our coworkers, our members and their families are now in danger of being forced out of their jobs and into the deportation queue without reason. We are going to be burning up the phone lines to push Congressional action.”
The DHS made three decisions last year which terminated the protected status for Sudanese, Nicaraguan, and Haitian immigrants. Those decisions also included a phase-out period. Labor unions have argued that the decision to extend their protected status merely delayed the problem.
The TPS program also includes immigrants from countries like Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Labor unions are hoping to see the protected status of these immigrants extended until the government develops pathways for them to stay permanently.
Congressional members from both sides of the aisle have worked together in the hope of countering the decision to end the protected status for these immigrants. They introduced a bill Oct. 31 that would allow TPS migrants who arrived in the country prior to January 13, 2011, to claim legal permanent resident status.