Mobilizing and Empowering TPS Holders in the Trump Era
A snapshot of a week at Hispanic Federation
By Michael Pereira, Health Outreach Coordinator, Hispanic Federation
With the looming termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), people who have called New York home for 20 years, worked, and raised children here are being held in immigration limbo while Washington uses them in its political chess match. “Begin the process of assigning guardianship to your children” and start “securing your finances before detainment or deportation occurs.”
Since the 1990’s some 437,000 nationals from 10 TPS-designated countries that were either ravaged by civil war, epidemics, or catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes left their home-countries behind and were granted permission to live and work in The United States. Now, a terrorizing combination of the president’s racist rhetoric, coupled with congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, has left hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters from El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Yemen, and Nepal among others unsure of what to do next.
In January of 2018 during talks on immigration, the president was reported saying “why are we having all these people from $#!+hole countries come here?” The communities Hispanic Federation proudly represents include some of the most admirable, resilient, and kind-hearted people I have ever had the great pleasure of serving. These hard-working people wake up early every morning to make a fair living, often breaking their backs in hopes of achieving the American dream, hearing things like “begin the process of assigning guardianship to your children” and start “securing your finances before detainment or deportation occurs.”. Yet, they resist at all cost this American nightmare the president spews as he attempts to divide us by race and ethnicity. Their humility and gratitude, accompanied with constant blessings wished upon us, inspire me every day to be a better person.
Recently, my colleagues Andrew Ochoa and Stephanie Gomez, as well as a couple dozen volunteers, worked tirelessly around the clock organizing and empowering our community in order to mobilize it. Last week, the Immigration Team, (or as I like to call them Immigration Superheroes), successfully organized a two-day call-in phone bank with Univision to get the word out about our TPS Town Hall event that was broadcast on the network’s Facebook page, which has a reach of more than 30,000 followers. The event included lawyers from The CUNY School of Law and the Liberty Defense Project who answered any and all questions from the crowd. All this happened while experts from “Qualities of Life Foundation” eased the room’s nerves about financial concerns with lessons on how attendees could secure their finances in the event of detainment or deportation.
The next day, I joined Bethsy Morales-Reid, who leads our health team, at the crack of dawn, and together we drove through a snowstorm to Albany so we could continue pressuring our elected officials. The goal: gain support from Senate and Assembly Leadership to speak publicly, and on social media, about a bill that would ensure Medicaid eligibility to individuals who are losing their Temporary Protected Status. Our coalition comprised more than 70 activists from The New York Immigration Coalition, Hispanic Federation, Housing Works, and Make the Road New York, among others. Together we were able to get the dean of the New York State Assembly, Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, to introduce A.3316, which would that would do just that; a sister bill in the Senate, S.1809, was introduced by Senator Gustavo Rivera.