Thousands of Americans are currently living in danger. They wake up every day with anxiety, fearing that the place they call home will disown them and leave them at risk of losing everything they have built through their hard work.
Over 320,000 people in the United States are currently at risk of losing Temporary Protected Status (TPS). These folks come from countries that simply don’t have adequate infrastructure or conditions to receive them if they were to go back. More importantly, they have set roots in this country by pursuing higher education, setting up businesses, developing their careers, starting families, and more. They are an integral part of our society both economically and culturally, a lot of them having been protected under TPS for one or sometimes two decades.
The Trump administration is responsible for putting TPS holders under this precarious position by rescinding their protections in pursuit of their racist and ruthless immigration agenda. Since then, a number of lawsuits have stalled the process but the future is uncertain for those who benefit from TPS. The solution is clear, we need to give this community permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship but unfortunately partisan politics is undermining common sense.
Earlier this year, the newly Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act, historic legislation that protected DACA , DED, and TPS holders. This happy moment was unfortunately short lived as the Republican-controlled Senate under Mitch McConnell has refused to move legislation in that chamber.
I spent the last week in D.C. with amazing advocates and TPS holders speaking to elected officials from both sides of the aisle about how we can move this issue forward.
“We are here today to amplify the voices of almost 300,000 TPS beneficiaries, and on behalf of the half-million children of TPS beneficiaries in this country,” said Marleine Bastien, Founder and Executive Director of Family Action Network Movement, a Haitian led organization in Florida, in a press conference held outside the Capitol.
"We are here today to amplify the voices of almost 300,000 TPS beneficiaries, and on behalf of the half-million children of TPS beneficiaries in this country." Marleine Bastien Founder and Executive Director of @FANMOrg #keepfamiliestogether #permanentresidencynow pic.twitter.com/HtQ2dskNCU
— FANM.org (@FANMOrg) September 9, 2019
Sadly, we did not receive a lot of answers or solutions. There might be enough support to pass a bill in the Senate but Majority Leader McConnell will simply not risk putting forward a bill that will either be voted down or vetoed by Trump if it gets to his desk. Being pawns in political games is an all too familiar feeling for immigrants but this lack of leadership for TPS holders means that they could face detention and deportation in a relatively short time.
In Florida we have two Republicans Senators who talk a good talk, but when it comes to action never walk the walk. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have expressed support for TPS before but they could exert direct pressure on McConnell and Trump to move this forward and they have not done so. We met with Rick Scott’s staff while in D.C. and we got a lot of words of encouragement but little in terms of commitment to action.
This lack of leadership from representatives of Florida is unacceptable. Around 45,000 Floridians currently have TPS, most of those coming from Honduras and Haiti. An estimated $1.7 billion would be lost from state GDP annually without those TPS holders. There is no real reason why both parties can’t come together and figure out a solution to protect these families but unfortunately one side is more interested in scapegoating immigrants for cheap political gain.
We need Senators Rubio and Scott to take leadership and move this issue forward. Enough with the political games and empty words. We need action.
Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for Florida Immigrant Coalition Votes (FLIC Votes) and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.