Washington– Today, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency (SECURE) Act (S.879). This legislation would allow qualified Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients to apply for legal permanent residency.
TPS is a temporary, legal status granted to foreign citizens who are endangered by conditions in their home country such as ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, epidemic, or other extraordinary events. DED is a humanitarian program authorized under the President’s power to conduct foreign relations. The Trump Administration has thrown these families into turmoil by refusing to recertify their designations or to provide clarity on future designations.
This uncertainty and the continued dangerous circumstances in their home countries has created considerable hardship for TPS and DED recipients and their families, including American-born children.
“Our bill protects families that have been living and working in the United States for decades. These individuals fled war and natural disasters, established deep roots in our communities and play a vital role in our economy. It would be cruel and inhumane to separate these families,” said Senator Feinstein.
“For decades, individuals living in the United States have been granted Temporary Protected Status to stay here when their home countries have become too dangerous to return to because of devastating natural disasters, ongoing civil war, or extreme violence,” said Senator Van Hollen. “These men and women have lived here legally for years – they have jobs and businesses and are our neighbors. We cannot in good faith send them back to some of the most dangerous places in the world. The courts have made clear this Administration’s decisions are unjust, and this legislation will take permanent action to give these families certainty and security.”
“Congress needs to pass legislation to protect those with TPS and provide them with a pathway to citizenship. These individuals have lawfully lived and worked in the U.S. as our neighbors for many years, even decades, as they sought refuge in the U.S. while escaping disaster and violence. We need to give predictability and safety to people who are in an uncertain status, and we need to stand up for the American values of compassion and diversity that have made this country stronger,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “President Trump’s decision to end TPS for Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador and other countries – as well as ending DED for Liberia – will needlessly rip families apart. We cannot let that happen.”
“TPS recipients have made countless contributions to Virginia and our nation – often after fleeing countries plagued by violence. This bill would allow them to keep contributing to the country they’ve come to know and love as home,” said Senator Kaine.
Currently, there are approximately 437,000 people with TPS in the United States from ten designated countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Liberians, originally granted TPS in 1999, are currently the only country protected by DED – that status is set to terminate on March 31, 2019. The SECURE Act will provide stability for these individuals and their communities by giving them the ability to apply for legal permanent residency. Under the bill, all TPS and DED recipients who qualified under the most recent designation and who have been continuously present in the United States for at least three years would be eligible to apply for legal permanent residency.
Senators Feinstein, Van Hollen, Cardin and Kaine were joined in introducing this legislation by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.). The text of the bill can be found here.
National TPS Alliance said, “The SECURE Act is an all-inclusive legislation that ensures permanent protections for all TPS holders. Hundreds of thousands of families are currently stuck in legal limbo and vulnerable to being separated from their families, this bill would change that. We applaud Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD) for listening to the voices of our community, and responding with a robust permanent solution. We also understand that bipartisan support is required for any legislation to pass the Senate and we remain committed to transparent and open collaboration that will ensure this bill becomes law.”
SEIU International Executive Vice President Rocio Sáenz said, “We welcome this legislation, which will allow thousands of working people who have had their lives hanging in the balance for far too long to stay in the U.S. with their families after spending decades building their lives here. Passing the SECURE Act would enable SEIU members like Teanke Tarwai, who fled brutal conditions in Liberia decades ago, to keep going to work every day, just as she has for nearly two decades. We need to keep standing up for her and the men and women who are just trying to make sure their kids can do better than they did and opposing the extremists who are trying to divide us against each other.”
Working Families United said, “It should be common sense to ensure that the people who have contributed so much to our nation’s economy have a stable future. Passing the SECURE Act is urgent and necessary. It’s right for the country, right for the economy, right for our union families, and the right thing to do.”
LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said, “LIUNA is proud to support the SECURE Act, which will provide a path to permanency for hundreds of thousands of workers, including many LIUNA members, who have lived and worked in our country for years – paying taxes and supporting their families. TPS holders are skilled and experienced workers who are critical to the construction industry and vital to the U.S. economy. LIUNA commends Senators Van Hollen, Cardin, and Feinstein for their reintroduction of this important legislation.”
UndocuBlack Network’s co-founder and director, Jonathan Jayes-Green, said, “As someone who grew up in Maryland, I am incredibly proud of Senators Van Hollen and Cardin for re-introducing the SECURE Act today. We desperately need a permanent solution for TPS and DED holders and every member of the Senate needs to support this bill. We also urgently need protection for the 4,000 Liberians on DED who risk becoming undocumented on March 31st, if a solution is not reached. Act now.”
Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of United We Dream, said, “Every Senator should co-sponsor the SECURE Act, which would provide people with TPS and DED with permanent protection from deportation. Everyone should be horrified that Trump put TPS and DED families in danger, and Senators Van Hollen and Cardin are right to lead the fight for the SECURE Act and to join with immigrant families in calling for permanent protections. The legacy of the DREAM Act has been one of helping immigrant youth without harming others in our communities and the SECURE Act is now a part of that important tradition.”
Jonathan Paik, Executive Director of the Korean Resource Center, southern California affiliate of NAKASEC, said, “Termination of the Temporary Status Program (TPS) also impacts Asian Americans. We applaud Senator Van Hollen for advocating for much needed relief for TPS recipients across the country. We understand this is a stepping stone towards citizenship for all.”
Pabitra Khati Benjamin, executive director of Adhikaar, said, “Adhikaar fully supports the SECURE Act. This is an opportunity for Congress to address the ongoing crisis that is affecting 450,000 TPS and DED holders and their families including 15,000 TPS holders from Nepal. This bill would protect all TPS and DED holders who are the backbone of our community by providing permanent residency for thousands of families that call America home.”