San Francisco Public Defender, Jeff Adachi, stood at the top of the steps leading to City Hall, and warned the assembled audience that there will be “billions of dollars in loss of revenue and loss of gross domestic product if TPS is removed.”
Since the Trump administration assumed office, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program has been in its crosshairs. Ten countries are on the TPS designated list currently: El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Nepal. Most are scheduled to have their TPS designations terminated in 2019. TPS holders have been given one final chance to apply for TPS before their status expires.
There are about 300,000 individuals from Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador holding TPS status. An ILRC policy report puts the tax payer cost at $3.1 billion if these 300,000 people were all deported, with $45.2 billion in reduced gross domestic product. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at. The ripple effect in San Francisco, home to 10,000 to 15,000 TPS holders, would be considerably damaging, as Adachi intimated.
Mariano Guzman, a TPS recipient from Honduras, has been traveling with the TPS’ Journey for Justice Caravan, stopping at 30 states across America to bring awareness to the plight of TPS holders.
Guzman told me that the loss of TPS status would be devastating. He has been living in the United States since 1993 and received TPS status in 1998. In the late 80s and 90s, able-bodied men living close to the Honduras, El Salvador border were routinely picked up by local gang members or militia to “persuade” them to join their cause. “That’s what happened to me,” Guzman said. He was taken for questioning in Honduras and beaten because the military thought he was working for Salvadoran groups. He was threatened with the safety of his family if he didn’t join the Honduran military.
Once Guzman was released, he decided to leave Honduras. One of the casualties of that decision was that he was forced to leave his two young daughters behind. Guzman has been in the United States for 25 years and never went back to Honduras, for fear that the problems he left his country for would resurface to haunt him and he wouldn’t be allowed back in to America.
El Salvador and Honduras rank as two of the most violent countries in the world and in 2015, El Salvador became the most violent country not at war.
In a statement in May, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi claimed that deporting hard-working Hondurans back would create chaos in Honduras, “where political instability, food shortages and gang violence continue to exact a devastating toll on local populations.”
Guzman has been working as a garbage collector for Recology for the last eighteen years. He has friends, neighbors and a family that he’s re-fashioned for himself with young children who are attending school in San Pablo.
“As a TPS holder, I’ve contributed to taxes. I’m not dependent,” he averred. His message was echoed by several other TPS holders.
Cristina Morales and her daughter Crista Ramos were two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in March against the Trump administration to stop the termination of TPS. She came here when she was twelve years old, finished high school, went to college and now has three children, all U.S. citizens. “I belong here,” she said passionately.
The termination of TPS will either split up this family, or will force Morales to live in the shadows, fearful of being caught and sent away from her loved ones.
Adachi related his own well-known history to draw parallels to today’s policies that separate children from their parents. “My parents were interned and separated from their families [during the Japanese incarceration]. They were placed behind bars and treated as enemy combatants,” he said, urging people to “band together to ensure that TPS is not only kept intact, but also expanded.”
Many immigration hardliners argue that the word “temporary” in TPS means exactly that. Life in America was never meant to be a permanent solution.
Some have even suggested taking away the privilege of work authorizations, which is at the crux of the TPS debate. Once the ability to work in America is taken away, it’s harder to put down roots, and hence there will be fewer costs incurred with deportations, the argument goes.
That’s not a solution, that’s creating a crisis to solve a crisis. Having people reside among us, without working and relying on America’s safety net programs will be costly and dangerous.
When people are gainfully employed, there’s less crime and there is more money and resources available for all of us.
Besides humans are social beings; we tend to form relationships irrespective of job or immigration status and those relationships inevitably lead to putting down roots. This then would take us full circle back to where we started, unable to deport those who have U.S. born children in the country.
The National TPS Alliance claims 273,000 citizen children have at least one parent with TPS.
Ultimately, our policies need to keep families together. Guzman has already suffered the ravages of a family separation once, caused by the prospect of violence. This time, the separation would be merely for the administration to make a point. While we calculate economic costs of programs, I believe the social costs, ones that are hard to quantify, are infinitely greater.
Jaya Padmanabhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan. In Brown Type covers immigrant issues in San Francisco.