By Diego Marcano
BU News Service
BOSTON — A group of over 20 migrants living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) left Boston on Monday morning, aboard a bus set to tour across the country to campaign for permanent residency for TPS holders.
The journey started in Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 2018, with over 50 migrants who got together under the banner “TPS Journey For Justice.”
The initiative was organized by the National TPS Alliance, a group of TPS beneficiaries that came together last year in response to the decision by the the Department of Homeland Security to not renew TPS for citizens from 13 countries.
Some TPS holders have been residing legally in the U.S. under this special permit for as long as 20 years and the new measure has put a countdown on the families of 275,000 American-born citizens with parents who are TPS recipients.
The bus tour was separated into two phases. The first one, from Los Angeles to Boston, took TPS recipients from the west coast to the east coast in six weeks, touring 25 cities and 15 states along the journey.
Edwin Murillo, 42, is a national coordinator of the TPS National Alliance. On Aug.17, he boarded the bus along with his wife, Mili Rivas, 40, and their two daughters: 5-year-old Zuri and 11-year-old Ariele.
Together they travelled for six weeks from the west coast to the east coast, until they reached Massachusetts, home to around 6,000 Salvadorians with TPS.
“I got in the bus because our kids go to bed each night asking what will happen to us,” Murillo said. “The Department of National Security is creating a humanitarian crisis in which thousands of kids will be separated from their families.”
Forty TPS National Alliance committees across the United States and over 10 non-profit organizations supported the travelers with lodging and coordinating activities with communities, meetings with city officials and legislators, and fundraising events to finance further campaigning actions.
TPS is a temporary protected status that the U.S. has historically given to immigrants from countries affected by natural disasters, catastrophes, civil war and unrest, allowing them to live and work legally in the country.
The Trump administration, throughout the Department of Homeland Security, has systematically refused to renew this temporary status, virtually terminating the program.
The longest section of the bus tour was from San Francisco to Portland: a 14 hour journey. There, they had to replace a radiator because the bus’ coolant was leaking. In San Francisco, they had to stop for repairs because the bus’ chassis was damaged by saltpeter.
After a four- day stay in Boston, they departed again for what will be another six weeks of meeting with legislators, local government officials and making community activities in the East Coast and the Midwest. The final stop will be Washington D.C, where the bus riders will lobby at the U.S. Congress for five bills that have been crafted to address the issue of TPS.
“If TPS were to disappear tomorrow, we would see homes getting foreclosed, business being shuttered and its employees losing their jobs, and the heartbreak of families being separated from their kids” said Adrian Madaro, state representative for East Boson. “Is this who we are as Americans? Are these really our values? I think not.”
The fear of being separated from their families was the central argument of a theater play presented by American children with TPS recipient parents last Friday, Sept. 28, at George Sherman Union in Boston University.
The experimental theater piece started with a little girl called Sofia, who was unable to sleep and asked her mother to tell her a story. The woman then told her daughter the story of how she migrated to the U.S. fleeing from a negative situation in her home country.
The climax of the play happened when, at Sofia’s birthday celebration, a group of friends see the party interrupted by a breaking news TV broadcast: “The Trump Administration has announced it will not renew the TPS, a temporary residency status that allowed thousands of migrants to stay in the country for almost 20 years,” said the TV announcer.
Then, one by one, the children in the play walked to the front of the stage and shared their fears.
“I will not be able to become an odontologist. My parents will have to leave and I’ll have to find a full-time job and become a mother to my brothers and sisters,” a girl said.
“I won’t see my parents again for years,” a boy said.
“Who is going to raise me? Who will look after me if my parents are gone?” another girl asked.
The clock is ticking. The next relevant date is Nov. 2, 2018, when the special status will expire for citizens originally from Sudan and South Sudan.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, TPS recipients must get their affairs in order and leave before the expiration date or they will risk deportation.