The Trump administration left tens of thousands of Hondurans, who were living in the United States for up to two decades, vulnerable to deportation after it announced earlier this year to effectively end a humanitarian program that provided refuge to migrants from their troubled homelands.
After El Salvador, Hondurans were the second largest nationality with temporary protected status (TPS) to lose their status, which was granted to the country in 1999 following the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch.
Just recently, dozens of people stood outside an immigration detention center in downtown Los Angeles to protest the administration’s decision to send back nearly half a million people who have been building lives in the U.S. for over a decade now.
However, what’s surprising, the protesters were joined by a group of people who might not be directly affected by the termination of the program, nevertheless, chose to jump into the fight to support immigrants.
In a rare move, six big trucks driven by the members of the Teamsters union – the North America's strongest and most diverse labor union – pulled up in front of the immigration detention center in what appears to be a surprising alliance between a U.S. labor organization and advocates for immigrants.
Over the past three days, the Teamsters were on a strike to protest what they claimed is the misclassification of workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The group argued the misclassification was robbing workers of benefits such as vacation time, sick pay and workers’ compensation.
However, the union leaders reportedly decided to combine their three-day strike with the immigrants, who also happen to be the members of the Teamsters and are set to lose their legal status under the TPS program.
“More than 300,000 people set to lose TPS in the next year and many are union members,” said Pablo Alvarado, the executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
“This is the first time I see the Teamsters mobilize alongside TPS holders and it’s a good thing. They’re making the statement that worker’s rights are migrant’s rights,” he added.
According to the Center for Migration Studies, a large majority of the TPS beneficiaries works in construction, with some 51,700 recipients working in the field. In addition, thousands of TPS holders work in restaurant and food services, landscaping services, child care, grocery stores etc.
Apart from the fact that both of these groups now have threats of deportation looming over their heads, TPS holders are in a slightly different position compared to the immigrants living in the country.
Ever since the Congress created the program for people whose home countries suffered wars or natural disasters, the TPS holders have been able to work legally, were protected from deportation, and could travel abroad.
The past administrations have repeatedly extended the programs for countries like Honduras that are still plagued with extreme violence and chronic political instability.
But, ever since the Trump administration took control of the Oval Office, it has no showed no regard for anyone and argued the program shouldn’t be a permanent pass to say in the U.S.
As of yet, the government has ended protections for six countries — Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Nepal, and Sudan.
Subsequently, the beneficiaries faced the prospect of either returning to their homelands over the next two and a half years, or join the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States, who are living in a state of limbo and are most likely to get deported.
Alvarado likened the end of the TPS program to the administration’s malicious “zero-tolerance” policy which ripped immigrant families apart.
“Separating 2,300 kids created such a crazy humanitarian crisis and crisis of morality,” Alvarado said. “Imagine what it would mean to separate 400,000 TPS families, a lot of them with US citizen children?”
Cesar Rodriguez, a 46-year-old TPS holder from El Salvador, came to the United States in 1996 and was undocumented until the government in 2001 granted him the protection status after an earthquake devastated his home country. He has been a port driver for 10 years.
“TPS recipients are an important part of my industry,” Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News.
“I felt so bad when I heard they were terminating TPS for us, I just kept thinking about my children,” he added. “I came here to work, to get things we could only dream of back home, and now they want to send us back to a country that’s filled with gangs and poverty?”
President Donald Trump has often defended his outrageous policies by arguing that immigrants, including TPS recipients, are stealing job opportunities from American workers.
However, Maria Elena Durazo, general vice president of UNITE HERE, a labor union representing more than 270,000 people in industries such as hotels and transportation, disputed the POTUS’S claims.
“That’s ridiculous,” Durazo told BuzzFeed News. “For the Teamsters to be so bold to come out in support of TPS and saying they’re not taking anything away from them is important and sends the message that immigrants’ rights are also workers’ rights.”
Banner / Thumbnail : REUTERS/Kyle Grillot