DREAM Act Is Only The First Step Towards Protection For All

by María Torres
National Field Organizer at Interfaith Worker Justice

The Trump Administration’s revocation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of people is damning evidence of the inhumanity in our broken immigration system; a system rooted in white supremacy, xenophobia, and racism.

Despite this attack on members of our immigrant community, the silence from many in the immigrant rights movement and allies regarding TPS is deafening — the uproar, anger, and disbelief is scant compared to the outrage we saw in September when Trump rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Why?

We are committed to Protection For All for all immigrants – not just “DREAMers” or those who fit the “good and deserving immigrant narrative. Over 300,000 TPS recipients, the majority of whom are from Central America, are at risk of being deported by the current Administration. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is terminating TPS for more than 2,500 Nicaraguans who have been living and working legally in the U.S. since January of 1999. The same could happen to 57,000 Hondurans, 195,000 Salvadorans and 50,000 Haitians.

Current TPS recipients include immigrants from more than ten countries, all of which are in the midst of armed conflict, political instability, and/or dealing with the aftermath of catastrophic environmental disasters. Though TPS is a temporary program, it has been in place in some cases for almost two decades, during which time TPS recipients and their families have become intrinsic members of our communities. Yet, their stories, until recently, have largely been ignored.

Protection for All movement member Luis Gonzales and his family are TPS recipients. Luis and his parents came to the United States over two decades ago and have made this country their home. His parents are homeowners, business owners, and parents to two U.S. citizens.

“I can’t imagine what our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters who just lost their TPS status are feeling,” Gonzales said in a statement, “They have to self-deport within a year. Just thinking about if I had to go through that — it makes my stomach drop. It fills me with deep sadness. My parents and I have lived most of our lives In the United States, I’ve lived here for 22 years of my life. If we had to move back to Honduras, I mean, we would survive, immigrants have learned to survive. But I keep thinking about what will happen to my siblings, what will happen to our family? What will happen to our community and those with whom our lives are intertwined?”

The so-called "DREAMers” have become something of poster children for that "good immigrant" narrative. We are told by the media and by elected officials to care about the DREAMers first and foremost. With such simplistic thinking, we neglect to understand that immigration is a complex issue that affects the lives of many.

This focus on the “ideal” immigrant has erased the experiences of the rest of the immigrant population and ignores the complexity of undocumented immigration as a multi-dimensional issue. Just like the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are excluded from the DREAM Act, many TPS recipients do not fit the model immigrant image. While their lives are being threatened, the division and explicit dismissal of their stories by legislative immigration champions and advocates make it even more difficult to raise awareness about the plight of TPS recipients and their families.

TPS recipients could benefit from legislative measures and in many cases could be eligible to adjust their status. The reality is that without an overhaul of immigration law that protects all and ensures the dignity of all the members of our communities, there will continue to be massive deportations and constant attacks on our families.

Now is the time to act. We need to reach out to organizations led and served by TPS recipients. We need to decenter the DREAMer narrative and refocus efforts to include all the marginalized, immigrant communities that are being left out of the conversation. Most importantly, we demand legislative action that ensures Protection For All in our immigrant communities, including TPS recipients.