The Trump administration is dismantling Temporary Protected Status, a program that protects people from deportations to countries destabilized by war, civil conflict, or natural catastrophe. One group is fighting back.
By Dennis J Bernstein
The Trump Administration, with Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as its willing lightning rod, is in the process of dismantling key aspects of the United States political asylum program. To that end, the administration has begun to zero in on what is known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS was established by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990. It’s a humanitarian program that mandates that the U.S. should suspend deportations to countries that have been destabilized by war, civil conflict, or natural catastrophe.
According to the National TPS Alliance, if the Trump administration manages to crush the program, over 450,000 people would face possible deportation, putting them in harm’s way, facing extreme violence and possible death.
In response, a national grassroots coalition of refugee and immigrants rights activists will caravan from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Those who are directly affected by Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant policy–the TPS recipients themselves–will lead the Journey for Justice Caravan.
The Caravan will travel across the country to visit over 50 cities in a span of 12-weeks, kicking off the campaign from Los Angeles on Friday, Aug. 17. The movement to save TPS has greatly expanded in recent days and weeks in response to the Trump administration’s hard-line decision to terminate the life-saving program as part of his ongoing and unrelenting attacks against immigrant communities from coast to coast.
The caravan will consist of over 50 TPS holders, from various countries that are currently designated TPS. “The goal of the caravan is to lift the collective voices against the termination of TPS,” according to a recent press release. “The cruel dehumanization of families at the southern border and against the criminalization of immigrants throughout the United States. For 12 weeks, TPS families will ride a bus across the country, and throughout the way, the justice riders will participate in vigils, community assemblies, know-your-rights sessions, forums, roundtable discussions, concerts, demonstrations, leadership-development activities and meetings with political candidates and elected officials.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network or NDLON is a key co-sponsor of the national action. NDLON is a coalition of worker-centered organizations across the country that defend day laborers from exploitation and extreme immigration enforcement, help people find jobs and recover wages, and train workers in health and safety.
I spoke with NDLON Executive Director Pablo Alvarado on Aug. 9 in Los Angeles about the reasons for the cross-country action to save TPS. Alvarado knows firsthand and up-close what violence looks like in El Salvador. Alvarado witnessed the death squad murder of his fifth grade teacher, before he fled the violence and the U.S.-funded military death squads that ruled El Salvador with a bloody iron fist. His own relatives in El Salvador continue to face death threats.
Dennis Bernstein: How would you assess the current administration’s policy toward immigrants and undocumented people from Central America?
Pablo Alvarado: This action on the part of the Trump administration is not just an act of cruelty but also of hatred, of bigotry. This president decided to terminate an incredible program that has facilitated the immigration of thousands and thousands of migrants. Today, 30 percent of these people own homes, over 90 percent have jobs. And yet, in an act of cruel racism, this administration has decided to get rid of this program. Their motivation is very clear: to reduce the number of non-white immigrants. They are scared of the changing demographics in our country. This is their way of slowing down the emergence of a new majority. They are no longer just going after undocumented people. They are taking away the papers of people with documents.
DB: You are from El Salvador yourself. Could you talk a little bit about the kinds of violence that people fled during this period of U.S.-supported death squads?
PA: It is important to note how many times the U.S. has intervened in Central America. The latest case is our recognition of a president in Honduras that 80 percent of the Honduran people don’t want. Honduras will continue to be in flames for months to come. Already, death squads are emerging, and activists have been disappeared and tortured. Children are being gassed while protesting. All of this will lead to even greater poverty and feed the cycle of migration. This is the same thing that the United States has done in El Salvador, in Nicaragua, and throughout the region. The widespread gang violence in El Salvador is something that was imported from Los Angeles.
I can tell you that my two brothers, who are teachers and make $450 a month, are being extorted by gang members. Temporary Protected Status was introduced following the great earthquake, but the reality is that El Salvador has not yet recovered from that natural disaster. The country is still in dire circumstances. There are many villages that subsist on the remittances of family members who are here in the United States. This action by the Trump administration is going to lead to an even larger humanitarian crisis.
DB: Do you see this as a form of ethnic cleansing?
PA: It is clearly an effort, as I said, to slow down the emergence of a new majority. This has always been the strategy of the people around Trump. They refer to it as attrition through enforcement. This involves making the lives of immigrants so miserable that they will want to pack their bags and leave on their own. Ending TPS is essentially a step in that direction. It is interesting, right-wing pundits say, that it is the Democrats who want to allow these immigrants to come because they want to turn them into Democratic voters. This is so ridiculous. These people are leaving their countries not to be able to vote here. They are fleeing violence and extreme poverty and persecution. Any country that respects human rights is going to want to provide safe haven to people fleeing such conditions.
DB: What kinds of actions are you planning to take now?
PA: We recently put together the National TPS Alliance, a coalition of about 50 committees of TPS recipients across the country who have come to Washington several times and are coming again in the first week of February. Prior to this recent decision, they were already doing lobbying work, trying to persuade politicians from both sides of the aisle of the seriousness of their plight. Out of those conversations, four legislative proposals have been introduced to provide a permanent solution for TPS holders. The administration may want to see TPS fade away in 18 months, but we are determined to make these proposals a reality.
Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with the author at [email protected]
Is Journey for Justice a Koch bother group?
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Here’s my question, why are they simply arguing for immigrant rights? Pablo Alvarado states that his country was impacted by US-funded death squads. He states the majority of Central America is negatively impacted by US policies. Yet his solution is not to challenge and change US intervention policies in Central America but to focus on immigration policy. In short, Central America should be abandoned and its citizens should immigrate to the USA.
Look, it’s not like all these immigrants have only just arrived and need to protect their status. Some have been here for decades. I understand you won’t get any mainstream media attention doing a “Journey for Justice” and traveling across country decrying US foreign policy that is the root cause of the immigration problem, but continuing to focus on immigrant rights is not going to change things in their homelands.
Why are they pushing the Koch brothers plan?
Priceless comment, Realist! I would also recommend that strngr-tgthr check the differences between the verb ‘are’ and the possessive pronoun ‘our’. Translating that into Chinese or Spanish might actually be better for understanding.
Mike K’s statement is sad but true, that getting any significant press or public attention to such injustices in this corporate capitalist dominated consumer culture is very difficult. The Poor People’s Campaign, a 2-month long similar campaign commemorating Dr. King’s last efforts before his assassination and drawing attention to today’s woeful plight of poor blacks and whites, just recently finished with hardly any attention given to the message. Meanwhile, an example of the decay of America has been recently shown by shocking statistics of shootings in Chicago, just the most egregious case of the rot while plutocrats and pundits debate tax breaks and market swoons.
On the matter of the horrors in Honduras, it is Obama-Hillary Clinton nefarious doings which contributed significantly to this, to overthrow Manuel Zelaya because he wasn’t corporate enough for their neoliberal politics. I read somewhere that Obama is missed and considered one of the “best presidents”!
Stop starting wars, involving American troops or our proxies, and the number of refugees will shrink by millions–from Syria alone. If our foreign policy enforcers want to increase our influence across the globe especially in countries poor in cash but rich in resources, do what China does, invest in their development. Be fair, make it worth the while of all, not just the local tyrants and corporate America by stripping resources using slash and burn methods. Create jobs but don’t exploit the locals as slave labor meant to undercut the wages of American workers.
Live up to all the puffed up rhetoric about exceptional America’s largess and concern for human rights as well as a sustainable future for Mother Earth. Do not approach absolutely everything that happens on this planet as a zero sum game in which American investors and their club of foreign colluders must win every single hand that is played. Stop trying to sabotage far reaching plans like China’s Belt & Road Initiative that will benefit billions of other peoples through new trade and development, just so our oligarchs can have more. They don’t just want a bigger piece of the pie, they want it all, and they will extract every bit of effort YOU (as one of the 99.99%) can bring to the table to allow THEM to get it.
It is a sick destructive attitude and set of rules this country has been living by for generations now (all the dead slaves and native peoples will not allow a denial of this). Time to reform before its too late for the whole planet. I know, TPTB will find all that risible as they continue to strip the Earth, overconsume just because they can and discard whatever human and other forms of life get in their way. To them, refugees created in the process are just an inconsequential annoyance they’d rather you shut up about. How are they supposed to enjoy their foie gras and crème brûlée listening to you bellyache about their lack of morals?
TPS countries (who designates?) Where’s Libya and Guatemala?
It reaches a certain level of depravity for a segment of the Washington power elite to wage proxy or outright war, political subversion and economic imperialism on exploited Third World populations for decades but then in order to score political points from hard pressed, underemployed and frustrated American workers a segment of that ruling class turns around to harass, attack, race bait and scapegoat the thousands of beleaguered underdogs fleeing to our shores in order to escape the Washington induced bloody misery of their homelands.
The wisest move angry, depressed and bitter American workers can make to squelch the flow of desperate Third World workers arriving in the United States is to become ardent anti war peace activists who constantly question, protest, rally and speak up when the militarists, neo-liberal warmongers, Wall Street hustlers, corporate exploiters and Zionist sociopaths champion their morally and ethically bankrupt policies around the globe.
So true! A similar analysis should be made of Europe and the NATO wars in Syria and Libya that displaced millions, only for those same people to be victimised by the media and a geopolitical system with interlocks between Turkey’s sordid Erdogan and the EU. One has to ask a question, though – how will this move by Trump affect the seemingly eternal warmongering “Miami Exile” community?
No matter who the current administration is it is important that people push back against legislation that they feel could be harmful to their well being. You can complain all you want whether it be about Trump, Obama, or any other president, but at least for now you have every right to fight back. The sky isn’t falling unless you let it. We Americans who hate war should take note of what these immigrants are doing, and follow suit to protest for peace.
I will add, that the fight just became a lot harder with the internet social media censorships underway. I will say this though, even there we must voice our opinion, and stand up for what we believe in.
Good luck with your efforts to affect the intolerant policies of the wealthy rulers of the US, who have nothing but fear and loathing for those not as rich as they are. White racism continues to be a major dynamic in world history.
Yes thank you. The only way to get this stopped with a border-less world Open Society. It was on are platform in 2016 : and now we see the results. :( We should be able to vote in the Mexican elections and they in ares.
Then you won’t mind when Xi Jinping is elected president of the entire one world government, since he does have the largest voting base by far. Actually, he’d be more competent than any candidate from Europe or the Americas. He is getting infrastructure built, expanding trade, making deals to develop third world countries in return for resources and enriching China’s middle class, things we haven’t seen happen in America since the 70’s. Yeah, the world would like to see that spread around… at least until the planet runs out of resources or chokes on its waste.
And you wonder why we have Trump?
The US workers and struggling as it is.More desperate poor is your answer to that?
The Koch brothers also wants open borders so that they can get poor workers from desperate countries to destroy what is left of the safety nets for citizens and have wages and benefits and unions decimated at last.
Even Chavez knew immigrants killed unions and fought against illegals.
Nation states are the last obstacle for the corporate elite.Good to know that you stand with them.
We would kill white peoples with abandon if they had oil and other goodies.Dont kid yourself.Just ask Hitter and Stalin.
By the way, if the Chinese ever got control they would make them look decent.My husband escaped China and that’s his opinion which I trust.