WASHINGTON – Hundreds of immigrants and their families gathered Tuesday Feb. 12, in the cold and rain to demand permanent residency be made available to thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. fleeing war and disaster.
They were joined by allies and lawmakers, including freshman Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., who told those in the crowd they had earned the right to be permanent residents through years of hard work and by building homes and families in the United States.
Protesters, who came from several states, chanted and cheered in several languages, as English, Spanish, French, Creole and Nepalese echoed through Lafayette Square.
The protest, which began at 9:30 a.m. in front of the White House, was part of a series of events organized this week to draw lawmakers’ attention to the plight of immigrants granted temporary protected status, who remain in limbo.
TPS recipients are a special classification of immigrants who come from countries embroiled in conflict or devastated by natural disasters. The program was created to allow citizens of those countries to live and work legally in the United States until the situation in their home countries stabilizes.
As the Trump administration has sought to tighten immigration and asylum laws, the president ended TPS designation for six of 10 countries in the program: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan.
Of the more than 300,000 people enrolled in the TPS program, a majority hail from those countries. Some have lived and worked legally in the United States for decades. Many have American-born children.
Two days before protesters gathered in Washington, several immigrants from Honduras and Nepal sued the Trump administration, alleging that its decision to end the TPS program for those six countries was driven by racism. The lawsuit, filed late Sunday in a federal courthouse in San Francisco, is the latest in a series of court battles that seek to challenge the Trump administration’s decision.
Last year, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the government from eliminating El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan from the program.
Protest organizers said TPS holders from nearly every country in the program were expected to be in attendance Tuesday. Hundreds traveled to Washington from out of state to attend, organizers said.
The demonstration was expected to take participants from the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue to three symbolic stops: First, protesters were expected to head to the Trump International Hotel, where activists would stage a demonstration against Trump and his immigration policies and rhetoric. Then, demonstrators were expected to walk to the Supreme Court, where several cases challenging the Trump administration’s policies may be decided. Finally, they would arrive at the Capitol.
TPS Alliance, an organization that advocates for TPS holders, organized three days of actions in Washington that include the protest and lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.
The organization heralded this week as the “biggest mobilization” of TPS holders in history.