How Kids Feel About Temporary Protected Status And The Fear Of Family Separation

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Families Belong Together and Working Families United

David is a 15-year-old boy from Orlando. He loves to play soccer and wants to grow up to be a pharmacist. His younger sister Vivian is 12, loves to dance, and wants be a veterinarian someday so she can help animals. Vivian says her mom is always there to help with any problems she has. David says he and his mom like to make each other laugh.

Muruj, 11, lives in Brooklyn and wants to help feed the homeless. Her older sister Mozen, 12, says she’s good at math and likes to help people as well. The girls have a 10-year old brother named Mosabeh. The three kids describe their mother as funny and as a person who always thinks of others before herself. Mosabeh says if had a superpower it would be to “make wishes come true” and he’d wish his mom would get a green card. Because the reality for hundreds of thousands of kids like David and Vivian, and for Muruj, Mozen, and Mosabeh, is that their parents, who live in the United States under TPS (Temporary Protective Status) and therefore do not have green cards, could soon be deported.

“TPS makes my mom safe in this country and makes her be able to stay,” Vivian says of her mom Belinda, an immigrant from Honduras. And she goes on to say, “If my mom went back to Honduras, it would make me nervous what would happen to her since we’d be so far apart. It would be hard without her support because she wouldn’t be here with me to watch me grow up.”

“TPS allows my mom to live her life as a citizen, like go to work, pay her taxes,” 11-year old Muruj explains. Mozen says if their mom had to return to Sudan, she’d be very sad and miss her. And their younger brother couldn’t even entertain the thought. When asked, “Do you know what would happen to your mom if TPS went away?” his heart-breaking response was, “I don’t want to answer that.” He does eventually admit, however, that it would be depressing to not see his mom’s face every day.

So what exactly is Temporary Protective Status? According to an organization called Families Belong Together, TPS is a “a legal immigration status to keep people safe who can’t return to their home countries because of dangers there.” TPS is different from refugee status, which is granted to those fleeing persecution based on race, religion, or nationality. However, refugee status is only granted to those still outside of the U.S. Once inside our borders, or at a point of entry, immigrants who qualify can seek asylum as a means of staying in the U.S.

But here’s the biggest problem. Although ALL THREE of these options are LEGAL and have been used for generations as means to retain residency within the U.S., there is a path to citizenship for those under refugee status and those seeking asylum. There is not a path to permanent citizenship for TPS residents. That needs to change.

TPS “has been a lifeline for more than two decades to hundreds of thousands in the US who have put down deep roots, who are our neighbors, our co-workers, and our loved ones,” the Families Belong Together website says.

Yet, their TPS status could be cancelled if Congress does not pass legislation that allows them permanent residency. Without green cards, kids like David and Vivian, as well as Muruj, Mozen, and Mosabeh, might have to say goodbye to their mothers as they are forced to return to unstable living conditions away from their children.

Imagine this is you. Imagine you had to flee a war zone, or famine, or a nation full of disease and no healthcare. Imagine doing everything you can possibly do for your children. Bringing them to safety. Getting a job to support them. Obeying the law. Giving back to your community. Raising kind children who care about others. And now imagine being forced out, as the temporary program that has been protecting you is stripped away and you have no other options. Imagine not being able to raise your kids, see them everyday, help them with their spelling tests, cheer them on at their soccer games, and watch them walk across the stage at graduation. Imagine not being able to hold them when they are hurting, care for them when they are sick, and rock them to sleep after a bad dream.

“Trying to end TPS is another act of cruelty by this Administration that harms children and families,” said Sandra Cordero, Director of Families Belong Together, “As if the family separation we’ve already witnessed isn’t enough, now those that our country has sworn to protect could be torn apart. Congress needs to act to make the protections permanent and put TPS holders on a path to citizenship to ensure that families stay together.”

These families are like yours and mine. They are families who help their neighbors. Whose children go to school and dream of becoming doctors who cure the sick and presidents who protect the innocent and ensure that everyone in America has the right to safety and security. They are families with hard-working parents who are union members, hotel and construction workers, domestic workers, and more. They are employees who work hard every day to provide for their children, contribute to their communities, and pay their taxes. But, they are also families who could be separated against their will.

Furthermore, deporting TPS residents not only rips families apart, but it also would harm our nation’s economy. “Laying off TPS workers would cost employers $967 million in turnover costs,” Working Families United reports. “It would cost $164 billion in lost GDP, plus $6.9 billion in lost Social Security and Medicare payments over a decade. 60,000 TPS families would be forced to drop mortgages. Mass TPS deportations would cost taxpayers $3 billion dollars.”

“We have been part of the economy of this country for years,” Belinda, a TPS resident, says. “We are farmers, workers, business owners.” She goes on to say, “A lot of people think we are criminals who take advantage of the government. But that is not the case.” She also goes on to admit, “I don’t feel safe talking about my TPS status, but I need to fight for my family and other families. I need to fight for my kids.”

So even if you don’t know a family directly impacted by TPS (by the way, you probably do), this decision would absolutely have a negative impact on each and every one of us. Unfortunately, because of actions taken over the past couple years, few are surprised when the Trump administration separates immigrant families at all costs. And they’re not going to slow down until he’s voted out. So what can we do?

Sign this petition and send the message to Congress that this country needs to pass legislation to ensure hard-working U.S. immigrants like Belinda can finally get the permanent citizenship they deserve. Write to your legislators who support the Dream Act of 2019 and the Secure Act, both of which offer protection and the path to permanent citizenship to these families. And, more importantly, write to those in Congress who don’t support these proposals, telling them why they should. Join local movements and organizations that help families at risk.

Check out Families Belong Together for ideas on how you can get involved. And most importantly, use your voting power to ensure those who support this legislation stay, and those who don’t, go.

As a parent, the thought of my kids facing a life without me is terrifying. Let’s do our part to ensure Belinda’s children and the rest of these families don’t have to face this inhumane reality.

If forced to leave, Belinda says, “I don’t know what would happen to my children.”

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