East Bay immigration advocates fight to protect TPS program

A 26-person delegation from the East Bay is headed to Washington D.C. to lobby lawmakers for the protection of the Temporary Protected Status program that the Trump Administration is seeking to end.

The coalition is made up of various non-profit groups that are active in the fight of immigrant rights, including the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and CARECEN SF. 

“If we do not pass legislation to protect people with temporary protected status they will be in chaos, in fear, and at risk of being deported,” Lisa Hoffman, Development Director at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, said.

Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is different than asylum. It is granted to immigrants who can’t return to their home countries because of ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters or epidemics, or other extraordinary circumstances. 

Vanessa Velasco, a TPS beneficiary for nearly 20 years, works as a Community Outreach Specialist with CARECEN SF. She fears she and her husband will be separated from their three U.S. born children if the Trump Administration lets the TPS program expire.

“We're so integrated in our communities and right now everything is month by month,” Velasco said. “We don’t know what is going to happen next.”

TPS currently applies to 10 countries. The Trump administration has sought to end the program for countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan, but several lawsuits in federal court have temporarily blocked any changes from taking effect. More than 300,000 people would be affected by the end of the program.

The group will travel to Washington from Feb. 10-13th and will meet up with more than 2,000 members of the Save TPS Movement led by the National TPS Alliance. They plan to meet with Bay Area lawmakers and any other lawmakers willing to listen about the importance of protecting TPS beneficiaries from deportation.

“The countries that they're from are still unstable and may be unable to receive them,” Hoffman said. “They have nothing to return to and they have everything there to lose if we don't protect them.”