Children of Immigrants Fear Parents May Be Sent Away

06 March, 2019

Jacqueline Landaverde, age 17, hopes to study political science and law in college. Kevin Palma, also 17, wants to become a doctor.

The two young people are in their final year of high school. They were born in the United States, so they are U.S. citizens. But their parents are not. They moved here from El Salvador under the Temporary Protected Status Program, or TPS. They could live and work legally in the United States for a short period of time while their homeland was dealing with natural disasters or political problems.

The TPS Program did not offer immigrants a way to become U.S. citizens or live permanently in the country. In September 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would end the program for six of 10 protected countries. More than 400,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan would lose their legal guarantees.

In October 2018, a judge stopped the Trump administration from ending the TPS status for immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan. The Department of Homeland Security announced on March 1 that the TPS will continue for these four countries until January 2, 2020. A separate court case stopped orders to expel about 57,000 Honduran and 9,000 Nepali TPS holders.

Both Landaverde and Palma think their lives will change a great deal if their parents are forced to return to El Salvador. It would probably end their dreams of going to college.

Palma spoke to VOA: "When it struck me was about two years ago, in 2017, when I was actually told the consequences that would happen. Basically, family separation ... I would have to stay here. I'd have to get a full-time job to take care of my siblings."

Landaverde's situation is the same. As the oldest child in her family, she, too, would have to get a job and take care of her three brothers and sisters. She is shocked that this situation may come about.

"Growing up I never knew. I just knew protection and my parents were legal in this country. ... We heard these rumors ‘TPS is going to be canceled.'"

Landaverde said she spoke with her parents. They gave a "brief explanation" and said, "It has kept us here in this country."

But she really understood the problem when she did her own research. She found the Massachusetts Temporary Protected Status Committee. The group organizes demonstrations and meetings, and sends information to TPS holders.

A play with real stories

VOA met with both high school students and their friends in Bethesda, Maryland, at the Imagination Stage Theatre. There they and 11 other children performed "The Last Dream" -- a project from the Boston Experimental Theatre. In the show, children of TPS recipients tell their real-life stories.

"Jackie, they hate us. They don't want us here anymore. Do you not understand that? Next year, none of us are going to be here to celebrate with Sofia, none of us."

Beth Brooks-Mwano watched the play. She felt thankful that the children shared their stories and said that she left with a new understanding.

Will you help me?

The play was part of a three-day series of events. Thousands of TPS holders came to Washington, DC to talk with U.S. lawmakers and ask for a way they could become permanent residents. Democratic Party activists like the idea of helping TPS holders stay. Most Republicans are against the idea. There are seven cases in court related to the Trump administration stopping the TPS Program.

Performances of "The Last Dream" are continuing across the country. Palma and Landaverde should learn about their requests to attend college in a month or two.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Aline Barros reported on this story for VOA News. The video was produced by June Soh. Dr. Jill Robbins adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

status – n. standing; the official position of someone or something

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