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Immigration Advocates Push For TPS Extensions, COVID-19 Benefits

A woman at a podium is surrounded by advocates holding TPS support signs and American flags.
Holly Pretsky/WLRN
Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of Family Action Network Movement, called for business leaders and government representatives to advocate on behalf of TPS recipients. Photo from July 2017.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has ended protections for immigrants from six countries affected by natural disasters, war, or other dangerous conditions.

In Florida, about 3,000 of the people at risk for losing legal Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, work in the health care industry. TPS allows them to live and work in the U.S. These people will be sent back to their home country when the Department of Homeland Security terminates their status.

Marleine Bastien with the Family Action Network Movement said many TPS holders work in occupations considered essential during the pandemic, like nurses, doctors, teachers and sanitation workers.

“In Florida, there are over 18,000 working at the forefront inside this epidemic and yet at the same time, they have to worry about having to be asked to pack their bags,” Bastien said.

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Rony Ponthieux, a TPS holder and nurse at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, said it’s time for the U.S. government to think about fair treatment for TPS recipients.

“I put my life in danger,” Ponthieux said. “I put my life in the line to save American lives.”

“I’ve been here for 21 years, and I'm working in the hospital to saving lives. We are in a war and the enemy is the virus. And the soldiers are not the U.S. Army, they are the health care providers. And I can tell you that many, many, many TPS recipients are in the frontline. They are the soldiers come fighting. And guess what? I'm one of them,” he said.

The Family Action Network Movement is urging the U.S. Senate to pass the proposed American Dream and Promise Act that helps provide a path toward permanent resident status for these immigrants, but said they need short-term relief, too.

"We also would like at least to give peace of mind to the 300,000 TPS recipients for their work permit to be extended,” Bastien said. “So that would relieve some of the impacts of waking up every day with dread."

Most TPS holders are from El Salvador, followed by Honduras and Haiti.

Multiple lawsuits are challenging the administration’s termination of TPS for several countries.

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DHS said it extend TPS for all six countries through Jan. 4, 2021, pending a decision on the lawsuits, but Bastien said that’s just “right around the corner,” especially considering the pandemic is still likely to affect travel and other aspects of life into next year.

Bastien's group, and other immigration advocates, are asking Trump to extend TPS work permit deadlines, as well as include these individuals in COVID-19 stimulus packages.

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