‘The Worst Battle Is the One You Don’t Fight': Texans With Temporary Protected Status Lobby Washington

WASHINGTON -- Glenda Amaya thought that members of Congress would benefit from hearing her describe the program that allowed her to live a fruitful life as a teacher in Houston for 17 years after leaving El Salvador. So she came to Washington to tell them about it.“We are very grateful because thanks to that document we can live, we can travel without fear, work, have benefits, give a better quality of life to our kids who were born here,” she said. “We’re not a burden, we pay taxes... we’re living a beautiful life in this country.”Hundreds of U.S. residents who stand to lose Temporary Protected Status -- including over 30 from Texas -- lobbied their members of Congress this week to extend the program that has allowed them to legally live, travel and work in the United States for nearly two decades.But lawmakers and others remain divided on whether and how to address it. The issue often isovershadowed by other immigration and border priorities.The Temporary Protected Status program grants deportation relief and work permits to immigrants from countries in the midst of wars or environmental crises. Three of the 10 designated countries -- Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti -- are slated to lose that status in January. And decisions on whether to extend TPS must be made by the Department of Homeland Security in early November, 60 days in advance of the deadline.Texas has a lot to lose -- the state has the most Honduran TPS recipients, about 8,000, and the second highest number of Salvadoran recipients, about 36,000. According to the left-leaning Center For American Progress, TPS recipients contribute over $2.2 billion a year to the Texas economy every year.Ending the program could also impact hurricane relief. About 50,000 TPS recipient construction workers from the three countries live in hurricane-hit Texas and Florida, said Neil Bradley, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement Friday."Ending the TPS designation for these three countries will exacerbate existing labor shortages in the industry at a time when such workers are essential to hurricane recovery efforts in states like Texas and Florida," he said. "Terminating these individuals' work authorization would run counter to the administration's goal of ensuring a timely and full recovery for these disaster areas."If the program is cut, TPS recipients who had worked here legally since the program’s start in 1998 for Central American countries would suddenly be here unlawfully. The program currently has no path to citizenship. And when then-DHS Secretary John Kelly strayed from precedent and extended Haiti’s designation for six months instead of the usual 18 in May, activists began to worry.So this week, the Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth chapters of La Alianza Nacional TPS, an advocacy group working towards permanent residence for TPS recipients, scheduled meetings with 16 Texas congressional offices to put faces and stories to the numbers.“We asked for their support and to sign a pledge that has been sent to all of them, and we’re asking them for bipartisan help,” said Joaquin Godinez, a Salvadoran TPS recipient and auto shop owner from Dallas after speaking with aides to Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, on Monday. “Not just Republicans or Democrats, but both parties, because this is a humanitarian issue.”  Continue reading...

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