Congress, Administration Leave Immigrant Families in Limbo

By Rosa García

President Trump’s demand for a costly, unnecessary wall is the central issue of the government shutdown, and continues to have an impact on the lives of millions of people. Similarly, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders also continue to be caught in a state of uncertainty about their futures. Every day that Congress and the Administration fail to act, they further endanger the economic security and wellbeing of immigrant families.

Without legislation in the next 100 days, hundreds of thousands of immigrant families will find themselves in limbo. They will lose their ability to work and feed their families once their legal protections expire. DACA beneficiaries and TPS holders stand to lose their homes, businesses, and opportunities to access higher education and driver’s licenses. The newly elected Congress can make history by acting now. They’ll have the support of advocates; state and local elected officials; employers; and faith, labor, educational, and community leaders who recognize the invaluable contributions of Dreamers and TPS holders. According to a recent poll, most Americans strongly support letting Dreamers adjust their legal status.

DACA beneficiaries and TPS holders, as well as their families, are long-term residents with deep roots in their communities. All DACA beneficiaries and some TPS recipients arrived in the U.S. as children. Among these immigrants,50 percent of Salvadorans and Hondurans and 16 percent of Haitians have resided in the U.S. for 20 years or more. An estimated 273,000 TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti are parents to U.S.-citizen children. And 1 in 4  DACA recipients has a U.S.-citizen child.

Since 2012, DACA protections have allowed more than 820,000 immigrant youth to remain in the United States, access employment and driver’s licenses, and pursue postsecondary education without  fear of deportation. While three nationwide federal court injunctions have blocked the Trump Administration from stripping protections from current DACA beneficiaries, the program is no longer accepting first-time applicants.

Enacted in 1990, TPS provides humanitarian relief for immigrants seeking refuge due to ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters, and untenable conditions in their countries of origin. It currently provides about 400,000 immigrants with temporary legal status, allowing them to work and remain in the U.S. Since September 2017, the Trump Administration has rescinded TPS for six countries—El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Sudan, Nepal, and Honduras—and ended Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberia. However, a federal court ruling has blocked the Administration from terminating TPS for 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan. While the court ruling is a significant victory, the Supreme Court’s position on the pending DACA and TPS litigation is unknown. It’s likely the Court may take up the cases in the coming year. 

DACA and TPS beneficiaries also contribute economically. According to a national survey of DACA recipients, 96 percent  are working or in school. Similarly, labor force participation for TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti ranges from 81 to 88 percent. DACA beneficiaries and TPS holders are educators, innovators, lawyers, public servants, health care professionals, and business owners. They’re also employed in the construction, hospitality, and service sectors. Without work authorization and protected status, they’ll lose their ability to support themselves and be at risk of being separated from their loved ones.

People forced to return to their home countries, or who may be subject to deportation, would face challenges to reintegration. For many DACA beneficiaries, the U.S. is the only home they’ve ever known. And the children and families they leave behind would face economic hardship.

CLASP urges Congress to act swiftly and provide immediate relief and economic security to immigrant families. Members must pass an inclusive bill that offers legal permanent residency and citizenship to TPS holders, DACA recipients, and undocumented immigrant youth and reflects the rich diversity of immigrant communities.