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Bogota & Washington, D.C.—Today, February 27th, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and Alianza Americas in urging the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs in the United States.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and attending U.S. Government representatives received testimony from advocates today on the impact that cancelling TPS and DACA in the United States will have on the human rights of program beneficiaries.
“After 17 years as a fully-vetted, work-authorized resident in the US, I’m seeing the rules change, seemingly overnight,” said Yanira Arias, campaigns manager for Alianza Americas and a Salvadoran TPS holder, who participated in the hearing via webcast because she cannot leave the United States. “TPS is ending, and I’m faced with the prospect of returning to a country that is even more violent than when I left it. My mobility, job prospects, personal safety, and access to healthcare will all be compromised. And I’m not alone – nearly 200,000 other Salvadorans are in my same position, many of them with US-citizen children. The cancellation of this program will have dramatic consequences across borders.”
Since 1991 more than 400,000 people have been recipients of TPS, a provisional benefit that allows those persons of certain countries that are already within the United States live and work legally. Most TPS holders are originally from Central America and the Caribbean, many of whom became beneficiaries once residing in the U.S. after natural disasters struck their home countries.
In the case of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, more than 800,000 young people who were brought to the United States as children have been temporarily protected against deportation and allowed to work since June 15, 2012 when the program announced by the previous administration.
Starting on November 2017, however, 195,000 Salvadorans, 50,000 Haitians, and 2,500 Nicaraguans have faced the revocation of their TPS status by the current administration. Moreover, a decision on the 61,000 Honduran beneficiaries remains pending. As for DACA, during the week of February 12th, none of the draft proposals received sufficient votes to pass the U.S. Senate to provide recipients a clear path to citizenship. Thus far, there is no clear timeline for a future approval of these proposals into law.
“The DACA program provides immigrant Americans with necessary, if temporary, protection to live, work, and study in the United States without the looming threat of arrest and deportation. While it does not provide a direct path to permanent residence or citizenship, in the absence of a firm legislative solution, the program provided a critical safeguard for individuals with significant ties to the United States but no pathway to regularize their migration status,” said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union. “The current situation, with the termination of DACA and similarly with the termination of some Temporary Protected Status designations has implications for the United States’ human rights obligations. First, by denying longtime residents an opportunity to regularize their status, and second, in exposing these individuals to arrest, detention, and deportation through a system with serious human rights violations.”
In the wake of these events, advocate organizations presented Commissioners and U.S. Government representatives with information on the ties developed by beneficiaries of both TPS and DACA. In both cases, program recipients grew up in the United States and built their lives within this country. Additionally, the situation of insecurity and violence that many TPS/DACA holders would face if they were to return to their countries of origin was underscored by hearing participants.
“In El Salvador, for example, there are widespread problems with extortion, gang violence, a weakened rule of law, corruption, impunity and other crimes, spanning extrajudicial killings to gender-based violence. The US Department has issued a level 3 travel warning for El Salvador, advising its citizens to reconsider travel.” said Francisco Quintana, Program Director for the Andean, Caribbean and North American Region for the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). “This is only one example of how the situation is in the countries to which TPS holders are being “voluntary” forced to return, and how their human rights might be affected”.
As a result, advocates urged the Commission to call on the U.S. Government to reconsider its decision and renew the Temporary Protected Status for the countries for which it was canceled and the DACA Program until Congress approves legislation that enables them to request a visa or residence permit, in light of their long-term residence in the U.S; to apply legislation and conduct enforcement in a manner that ensures family life, due process and in which the best interests of children are protected; and undertake all legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures necessary to ensure that civil, social, economic and cultural rights are guaranteed without discrimination, among other points.