The SECURE Act would solidify the status of TPS recipients, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for years and have deep ties here, including a quarter of a million U.S. citizen children, jobs, and homes. In fact, 2017 data from the Center for American Progress found that Honduran and Salvadoran beneficiaries have each called the U.S. home for an average of at least 20 years.
Many TPS holders are also serving as front-line workers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Barbara Rauda is a mom of three, 32BJ SEIU member, and front-line clearer at Walter Reed, the hospital that treats presidents and military service members. In a release from the office of Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who reintroduced the SECURE Act with Sen. Ben Cardin, Rauda explained her vital role in fighting the pandemic and how the legislation would help keep her family together here.
“My job as an essential worker, making sure rooms are safe and clean for Walter Reed patients can mean life or death for everyone inside,” she said. “I have been in the U.S. for over twenty one years and I have three children who are U.S. citizens, having a green card would help keep families like mine together.” Rose Michelle Tilus, a Haitian TPS holder from Rhode Island and member of advocacy group Haitian Bridge Alliance, explained that the previous administration’s ongoing threats to send her back to a country she hasn’t visited in decades have been agonizing.
“As a frontline worker during the COVID pandemic, my immigration status has brought me tremendous stress that I would not be able to provide care in my community,” she said. “It has been a privilege to be part of the workforce combatting COVID-19, taking care of vulnerable populations. However, as a TPS holder, my working permit had an expiration date. There was always that fear that it would not be renewed or worse, that I would be deported back to my country; a country that I had left as a teenager almost two decades ago.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had previously found that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ignored the advice of senior U.S. diplomats who warned against terminating TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras and sided instead with the noted white supremacist who directed immigration policy for the previous administration. “Trump senior adviser and immigration hard-liner Stephen Miller placed phone calls to DHS Chief of Staff Chad Wolf and top Tillerson advisers telling them to end TPS anyway,” The Washington Post reported in 2018.
While the House under Democratic leadership passed permanent protections for both TPS holders and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries in 2019, the Dream and Promise Act was stalled by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But with our Democratic wins in Georgia, Mitch is now Senate minority leader, and now is our time to finally protect all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Already, the SECURE Act joins the Dream Act in new legislation that begins this process.
Now is the time. Families are waiting, and they’re tired of having to live from court decision to court decision. They deserve certainty, stability, and a permanent status. “For the past decades, I felt loss, hurt, disappointed, and afraid for my future,” Tilus continued. “Lawful permanent residency would mean hope for tomorrow, hope for my future and for my family.”