By Johana Orellana
The Secretary of Homeland Security designates Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to countries based on conditions in that country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.
TPS was established by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990. Foreign nationals with TPS protections are generally able to obtain work authorization and a driver’s license, but the TPS designation is subject to U.S. government review and can only be extended for up to 18 months. Salvadorans are by far the largest group of TPS holders. There is ongoing debate about whether migrants who have been living in the United States for long periods of time with TPS should receive a pathway to legal permanent resident (LPR) status.
The following countries were designated with TPS set to expire in 2019, except for Honduras, which is set to expire in July 2018. The figures included are the number of individuals with TPS, as of October 2017: Salvadorians (262,528), Haitians (58,557), Honduras (86,031), and Nicaraguans (5,306).
Why is this important to libraries? Libraries provide access to all members of our communities, not matter their gender, race, status, or human condition. The Core Values of Librarianship states, “We value our nation’s diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve.” With this in mind, many communities will be affected by the termination of TPS to previously designated countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Nicaragua. Particularly large cities like Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York, Houston, etc., where many TPS holders reside. In particular, the 273,000 children who are U.S. citizens, but whose parents are TPS holders. The following are some ways that libraries can help families affected by the termination of TPS.
One agency that librarians should be aware of is local Salvadorian, Haitian, Honduran, and Nicaraguan consulates. Patrons may need to go to their consulates to obtain birth certificates or other official documents. Librarians should know and provide patrons with consulate contact information. Consulates may not be able to help answer specific questions regarding the TPS application process. However, if you notice an increase in referrals or questions about consulates reach out to the individual consulate to prepare the agency to help their citizens.
Libraries can also refer patrons to CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that offers low-cost immigration legal services, community education programs, and advocacy and organizing to achieve fair and more inclusive immigration, education, and labor laws and policies in Los Angeles and the rest of the nation.
Librarians should refer patrons to USCIS approved list of DOJ-accredited representatives and organizations.
Librarians can order or print and supply Know Your Rights Cards in multiple languages to community members affected.
Librarians should use TPS fact sheets to inform Congress Members, Representatives, and Local officials of the impact TPS holders have on the economy and our country at large.
If you are unsure about what services are available to patrons in the area, call 2-1-1, a free and confidential community information and referral service.
These resources are available to help our immigrant communities find answers. Librarians are doing amazing work in serving TPS holders at a time when there are many questions and insecurity about their futures. Keep up the great work!