By David Sperling
Salvadorans and Hondurans living on Long Island are terrified.
The Temporary Protected Status program, enacted in 1999 for Hondurans and 2001 for Salvadorans, has provided a security blanket for tens of thousands of immigrants living on Long Island. TPS registrants and their families have established deep roots on Long Island, working and paying taxes, raising families, purchasing homes and contributing to the region’s economy.
Now the government is about to yank away that security blanket, plunging exposing hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, along with their families, friends and employers into a legal limbo of uncertainty and fear. Make no mistake: the termination of TPS for the small number of Nicaraguans is a loud warning that the final bell will soon ring for Hondurans, Salvadorans and other groups with TPS status, notably Haitians.
I have always believed that TPS beneficiaries are — along with Dreamers with DACA — the very best candidates for permanent Green Cards. They have invested their lives in the United States, working, paying taxes, obeying the law and raising families — the vast majority of whom include U.S. Citizen children.
The obvious pragmatic and humanitarian solution is a law providing Legal Permanent Status for TPS beneficiaries, their spouses and non-Citizen children. This type of legislation would have strong, bi-partisan support.
Again, as with the Dreamers, their fate is in the hands of Congress. Immigrant advocacy group should build a united coalition — across party lines — to establish Legal Permanent Residence for the Dreamers and TPS beneficiaries.
I started my immigration practice in 1995, shortly before President Clinton signed the NACARA law, which provided Green Cards for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans. It was a tremendous success, and many if not most NACARA beneficiaries eventually became U.S Citizens and mainstays in their community.
The eligibility requirements for NACARA were not difficult: an initial asylum or TPS filing, seven years’ continuous residence, and proof of good moral character. (A requirement to show “extreme hardship” was a legal presumption that was never rebutted.)
Honduran and Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries, by comparison, can show continuous permanent residence since 1998, and 2001, respectively. The government has checked their fingerprints for every re-registration period, disqualifying any registrants with serious crimes. They have Social Security numbers and pay their taxes. No other immigration group has undergone such continuous scrutiny over such a long period of time.
There are several ways in which some TPS registrants can obtain a Green Card independently, through family relationships, which I will discuss in a future column.
But our focus now should be a legislative solution that provides TPS and DACA beneficiaries with an immediate path to a Green Card and eventual U.S. Citizenship.