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Immigrant rights groups fight Trump administration on TPS

Karen Morales
Immigrant rights groups fight Trump administration on TPS
Patricia Montes, director of Centro Presente, speaks in front of the State House at a press rally. Banner photo

After the Trump administration announced on May 4 that it will be terminating Temporary Protected Status for Honduran immigrants, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice amended a pending federal lawsuit filed in February to challenge the most recent TPS decision.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Centro Presente, a Boston-based immigrants’ rights organization, and is currently pending before Judge Denise Casper in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.

Nearly 86,000 Hondurans living and working in the U.S. are set to lose their status after Jan. 5, 2020.

At a press conference at the State House on Monday, Patricia Montes, director of Centro Presente, said, “Honduras is definitely not ready to receive and re-integrate Hondurans that are being deported.”

Montes described the climate in Honduras as dire, with the majority of residents living in poverty, over half in extreme poverty, and deadly violence and government corruption escalated by U.S. military involvement.

“Our policy makers at the state level can do a lot,” she said. “We would like to see them pass a statewide resolution to condemn the human rights violations in Honduras.”

As she spoke, behind her stood TPS supporters, including U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, who helped draft TPS legislation in 1990 with the late Rep. Joe Moakley.

McGovern said that TPS recipients have to undergo regular background checks.

“The people we are talking about are the most law-abiding people in our country, we should celebrate their presence here and do everything we can to regularize their status,” he said.

But he admitted that it was difficult to bring up Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or TPS bills at the White House because of the current Republican leadership in Congress.

“We have to work hard to change the reality in November to control the legislative agenda in Washington so we can bring these things up,” said McGovern.

In the meantime, “We need to provide a circle of protection around these people,” he said. “We need to pass the Safe Communities Act in Massachusetts.”

The Safe Communities Act is a proposed state bill that prohibits the use of local and state resources to target immigrants through the use of a federal registry of individuals based on characteristics like national origin or religion, or allowing local police authorities to act as immigration enforcement agents.

Lives in the balance

Jose Palma, a TPS recipient from El Salvador and member of grassroots organization Massachusetts TPS Committee, said he was disappointed to learn just days before the press conference that House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he does not plan to bring the Safe Communities Act to the House floor for a vote.

“Democrats have to step up to do more on the national level,” said Palma. He told reporters that the MA TPS Committee has been requesting to meet with Rep. Keating and Rep. Lynch but their requests have gone unanswered.

“My son is applying to college and might have to decide soon whether to go back with me or stay on his own,” said Palma. “And my daughter, she is only 13 years old.”

Honduran TPS recipient Patricia Carbajal said she has a 4-year-old U.S. citizen daughter she cannot leave alone, nor does she want to take her to Honduras.

“I’m a single mother. I have been in this country for 20 years. I’m here to work and give my children a better life, because we don’t have anything in Honduras,” she said. “There is nothing there.”

Other politicians who spoke at the press event included Kennedy; Joseph Curtatone, mayor of Somerville; City Councilor Josh Zakim; and At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.

“We will fight by your side in Washington to ensure our neighbors, friends, teachers, workers … will not be forced to leave a country to which they have given so much,” said Kennedy. 

Pressley called the recent TPS decision a “lack of patriotism,” and Zakim said, “It should not be about political ideology, it’s about humanity.”

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, said, “Centro Presente had the courage to stand up against the federal administration while some other much larger organizations with more resources sat around, doing nothing.”