As if the state-sponsored kidnapping of 3,000 children from asylum-seeking parents weren’t enough of a national disgrace, another parent-child separation crisis looms as the result of a cruel, politically driven immigration policy.
About 300,000 immigrants who have been living in this country legally — some for decades — are facing the end of life-saving protections given to them by previous administrations.
For no valid reason whatsoever and without regard to the inhospitable conditions of their countries of origin — or for their deep roots in U.S. communities — President Donald Trump revoked their temporary protected status, or TPS, and these families face imminent deportation deadlines.
If Congress doesn’t act quickly to provide a pathway to residency — or if Trump doesn’t miraculously develop a conscience and deliver a reprieve — the parents of 273,000 U.S.-born children will face a Sophie’s choice type of decision in the coming months.
Do they take their American children with them to live in a violent, poor and unstable country? Or do they leave them behind in the United States, where they’re more likely to live in a democracy with better prospects for a safer and more prosperous life?
For many, the end of TPS represents making a gut-wrenching life-or-death decision.
It’s either that or take their children and bolt into the shadows before ICE comes for them, becoming part of the undocumented population.
“If we have to go back, I don’t know what will happen,” says Sara Mohamed, a wife, mother to U.S.-born children, and caretaker of an Alzheimer’s patient. She left Somalia in 1981.
She and her family live in constant fear that ICE will burst through the door any day now, since TPS for Somalians ends July 19.
“Help us to keep our families here,” she begged at a news conference Thursday called by the immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice.
Caught between the more popular cause of legalizing the status of young people brought here as children, the DREAMers, and the more pressing drama of children being separated from parents at the border, TPS holders feel forgotten by Congress.
No parent in their right mind would willingly take their children — who have rights as American citizens — to live in the violent and unstable environments of Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Nepal or Sudan.
To speak of this hemisphere alone, Haiti and Nicaragua are undergoing violent political turmoil these days. Most of the refugees at the U.S. border are from Honduras and El Salvador, both known as murder capitals of the world.
What purpose does it serve this country to send contributing members of our communities back into these conditions? Nearly one-third of Salvadoran, Honduran and Haitian TPS holders have mortgages. They have lived in the U.S. an average of 19 years and have a high employment rate, according to research by the Center for American Progress.
“We are good people,” says Erik Francois, a Haitian TPS holder since the 2010 earthquake and father of two — a 7-year-old born here and a high school graduate born in Haiti.
What kind of decision is he supposed to make? Which child should he choose to live with?
It’s an unfathomable position to be in as a parent.
“We are family people,” Francois says. “This is our home. This is where our kids are going to school. This is where we are living for a long time.”
There’s no need and no reason other than the exercise of political chicanery for American children to be separated from their parents, brothers, sisters and other family members in the United States.
If Congress doesn’t act to grant them permanent status, the world will witness more inhumanity playing out on U.S. soil.
This one — happening to our neighbors — will be harder to hide.
There’s no chain-link fence or cage big enough to hide the pain of hundreds of thousands of parents and children.
Let’s help them keep their families together.