LOS ANGELES – Cristina Ramos was working in her Internet class for second graders when she got the news that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had supported the Donald Trump administration’s decision to suspend Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program that has allowed her to live and work legally in this country.
“I had to swallow my pain and put on a happy face and keep teaching,” the Salvadoran woman told EFE on Tuesday, adding that since 2001 she has benefited from TPS, which has allowed her to reside legally – and be able to work – in the US.
“I was devastated and thinking how was I going to get out of this and be able to help other families,” added Ramos, who along with her 16-year-old daughter Crista is part of a group of nine people who filed suit against the federal government over its 2018 decision to end TPS.
Nevertheless, today – despite the initial blow – she is continuing with her activism plans to motivate many of her fellow TPS beneficiaries to tell their stories and show her community what it has meant to be granted that permission to live and work legally.
“We have to save TPS and stop the deportation of 400,000 families, and I think that this is the reason to keep fighting. We lost a battle but victory can be ours,” she said, adding that she is certain that the ruling will be appealed.
In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge federal appeals court reversed on Monday the 2018 decision by a San Francisco court judge that blocked suspension of TPS for beneficiaries from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
The Trump administration put an end to temporary protections for these immigrants arguing that, many years after having provided the benefit, the conditions in those countries no longer presented the original risk.
The activist said that they have 45 days to request a review of the ruling and they will ask the Court of Appeals to examine the case once again “with the full group of judges.”
If the court decides not to re-examine the case, the plaintiffs will take it to the Supreme Court, although the current TPS authorizations for Salvadorans and other beneficiaries expire next year.
Another case among the thousands of similar ones is that of Patricia Hernandez, a 55-year-old woman, also from El Salvador, who told EFE that she has been living in the US for more than 20 years. After leaving her country because “the economic situation was deadly there,” she obtained TPS after a serious earthquake in El Salvador that permitted affected Central Americans to request temporary residence in the US.
“It’s been 20 years since then, being legal in this country and always with the hope of someday being able to get our status in order (to obtain citizenship),” Hernandez said.
She emphasized that the Court of Appeals decision affects more than 200,000 children of beneficiaries and 249,000 Salvadorans who were specifically granted TPS, among others.
The news came like “a bucket of cold water,” said Hernandez, who lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon, where she owns a business, and it has forced her to weigh her alternatives.
“When I arrived in the US, I began working hard and eight years ago I started (a business) with a small lunch cart” which over the years she expanded to a well-appointed truck in which she cooks and sells food on the street and by making the rounds of regular customers, such as workers at construction sites, she said.
Two years ago, Hernandez and her Mexican husband put another lunch truck into operation and now they employ seven people in their catering business.
“Now, we’re thinking about what our options will be if we lose TPS. For my husband, El Salvador is not an option due to the lack of safety there,” the mother of an adult daughter, who lives in Canada, said. That country is not a viable alternative for them either because they would have to receive residence permission and “we’d have to be lucky in a lottery.”
“We’d have to separate and, for me, going to Mexico is not so easy. It’s something that we hadn’t thought about and we have to examine it and work things out,” she said.
Nevertheless, she is thinking about continuing to try and find a legal solution to continue living in the US, and thus she will participate in a program that begins in late September in Los Angeles. This will be an opportunity for many TPS beneficiaries to tell their stories and for Congress to move to support an ongoing legal path to permanent residence or citizenship for people who have integrated themselves into US society.
“You can play a role by telling your story to others. Tell your story, so that your children and your community know about it. I didn’t say that I was a TPS beneficiary because I was so adapted that I didn’t feel the need, but now is my chance,” Ramos said.
Some 263,000 Salvadorans, 86,000 Hondurans, 58,000 Haitians, 5,300 Nicaraguans and approximately 1,000 Sudanese, according to official figures, would be affected by the suspension of TPS.