WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) today announced the reintroduction of the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency (SECURE) Act, legislation to allow qualified TPS recipients to apply for legal permanent residency. During the press conference, the Senators noted the support of over 20 of their Senate colleagues and underscored their commitment to working with the Biden Administration and the new Democratic majority in the Senate to provide security to TPS recipients. A video of the press conference can be found here.
“TPS recipients are essential to our communities in Maryland and across the country. They are business owners contributing to our economies, students with bright futures, and leaders on the frontlines of our social movements. They came here legally and it is unsafe to return to their home countries. We have a moral obligation not to return people to countries that will put them in harm’s way,” said Senator Cardin. “The SECURE Act will extend protections for these hardworking residents and end the uncertainty and discrimination they faced under the previous administration.”
“For decades, our country has welcomed and protected those fleeing violence and turmoil around the world. TPS recipients are members of our communities – they are our neighbors, local business owners, friends, and frontline workers. Many have lived here legally for over twenty years – and have come to call our country home. But over the last four years, the livelihoods of these individuals have been under constant threat. Now, alongside the Biden Administration, we must prioritize providing TPS recipients security and certainty. We’ll be working to quickly get this done,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“TPS holders are our neighbors, friends and colleagues and many have lived in the U.S. for decades and call America home. These individuals have made countless contributions to our communities and businesses and many have served on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that we stand with them by working to pass the SECURE Act, which is why I’m proud to join Senator Van Hollen and Senator Cardin in reintroducing this piece of legislation today,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), an original cosponsor of the legislation.
In addition to Senators Cardin, Van Hollen, and Schumer the legislation is cosponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
TPS is a temporary, legal status granted to foreign citizens who are endangered by conditions in their home country such as ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, epidemic, or other extraordinary events. Currently, there are approximately 411,000 people with TPS in the United States from ten designated countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. TPS status is granted for set periods ranging from six to 18 months, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to extend a country’s status on a recurring basis. Every time a country is recertified, recipients must reapply and pass a thorough background check.
In September 2020, a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of the Trump Administration and reversed a court order in the Ramos v. Nielsen lawsuit which halted the termination of TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan; this court order also stopped terminations of TPS for Honduras and Nepal. TPS recipients now face uncertainty as they wait for the pending re-hearing on the case. This uncertainty and the continued dangerous circumstances in their home countries has created considerable hardship for TPS recipients and their families, including American-born children. The SECURE Act will provide stability for these individuals and their communities by giving them the ability to apply for legal permanent residency. Under the bill, all TPS recipients who were qualified under the most recent TPS designation and who have been continuously present in the United States for at least three years would be eligible to apply for legal permanent residency.
Today’s call was attended by a wide array of advocacy organizations including: CASA, National TPS Alliance, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), LIUNA, Alianza Americas, African Communities Together, Adhikaar, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Presente.org.
“I am the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit led by TPS families challenging the Trump Administration’s racist and anti-immigrant attempts to tear more than 275,000 US citizen children from their parents. For too long TPS families have been pawns in other people’s agendas even after we fought tirelessly in the federal courts, marched on Washington, and lobbied congress to get to this point. Now it is time for Congress to utilize any and all legislative vehicles which would guarantee our families a Permanent Residency,” said Crista Ramos, lead plaintiff in the Ramos Case and daughter of Salvadoran TPS holders from San Francisco, California. Crista is a member of the National TPS Alliance.
“My job as an essential worker, making sure rooms are safe and clean for Walter Reed patients can mean life or death for everyone inside,” said TPS holder, Barbara Rauda, a 32BJ SEIU member and mother of three working as a frontline cleaner at Walter Reed Military Hospital. “I have been in the U.S. for over twenty one years and I have three children who are U.S. citizens, having a green card would help keep families like mine together.”
“As a frontline worker during the COVID pandemic, my immigration status has brought me tremendous stress that I would not be able to provide care in my community. It has been a privilege to be part of the workforce combatting COVID-19, taking care of vulnerable populations. However, as a TPS holder, my working permit had an expiration date. There was always that fear that it would not be renewed or worse, that I would be deported back to my country; a country that I had left as a teenager almost two decades ago. For the past decades, I felt loss, hurt, disappointed, and afraid for my future. Lawful permanent residency would mean hope for tomorrow, hope for my future and for my family,” said Rose Michelle Tilus, a Rhode Island TPS Holder from Haiti, frontline worker and member of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
“This month of February it is 21 years that I cannot hug my parents. Two weeks ago my 96-year-old father was on the brink of death. Lawful permanent residency would allow me to continue contributing to the United States and to be close to my family in El Salvador during emergencies,” said Yanira Arias, TPS beneficiary from El Salvador and member of Alianza Americas. Yanira is the main source of financial support for her elderly parents and an organizer mobilizing immigrant communities across the United States.
“I am a proud single mother of a daughter who is now 30 years old and is working as a nurse. Within a couple of years of getting my work permit through TPS, I was able to acquire two businesses in Dallas, and in Texarkana. TPS has given this mother and daughter the opportunities that we could never have imagined back in Nepal, especially as a single mother family. Yet, the uncertainty that TPS entails has been very stressful for us. We need permanent residency so that I can grow my businesses further, my daughter can be ensured of longer-term employment in health services, and we can both continue to give back to the community the way we always have been even while in temporary status,” said Namrata Pokhrel, a Texas TPS holder from Nepal, member of Adhikaar and small business owner.