Union Urges Trump to Save Immigrants With Temporary Protections

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Culinary Workers Union Local 226 treasury secretary Geoconda Argüello-Kline (Used with permission by Culinary Workers Union Local 226)

A Las Vegas union is hoping to save thousands of immigrants from deportation Tuesday by urging President Donald Trump to extend their protected status.

The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program allows foreign nationals to stay in the country legally if they are unable to return to their home country safely. The protected status for 320,000 immigrants is set to expire at the end of this year. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 believes the deadline should be extended.

Local 226 held a press conference to make its case for why the protection should be extended. The union argues that it wouldn’t be right to force immigrants out after they have spent years building lives in the U.S. The union is urging the president and local lawmakers to extend the program until a pathway to citizenship can be implemented.

“The Culinary Union has been on the front line fight for these immigrants,” Local 226 treasury secretary Geoconda Argüello-Kline said during the press conference. “They live here; they pay their taxes; they work really hard. They want to be citizens of this country.”

House Reps. Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen joined the press conference in support of the union push. Both representatives are Democrats from the state of Nevada.  They urged Republican Sen. Dean Heller to also support the extension with so many participants in their state.

Local 226 notes that many of the immigrants at risk have been here for almost three decades. They have worked in the country and become a part of their community. They have raised children who only know how to be Americans. Local 226 is working alongside its national affiliate, Unite Here, to bring attention to the issue.

The TPS program currently includes immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Unite Here has specifically focused on the 50,000 Haitians that have a protected status. The union argued those immigrants still don’t have a safe home to go back to.

Unite Here organized protests and launched a petition to bring national attention to the issue. The union also joined forces with other advocates like the Haitian Women of Miami and the Florida Immigrant Coalition. The union has argued that the statutes should be extended until pathways to citizenship are developed for them.

The Trump administration announced May 22 that the program would be extended for the Haitians. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the six-month extension just a day before it was set to expire. The Haitians have lived in the country since their homeland was hit by an earthquake seven years ago.

“After careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government, I have decided to extend the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status for a limited period of six-months,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement. “Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010.”

Unite Here and other critics expressed dissatisfaction with the extension when it was announced. The union argues that the ideal would be to extend the program until the government develops pathways so they can stay permanently. The union says they have been here too long to send them back now.

Trump has promised to better enforce immigration law, and pursue policies that protect domestic workers from unfair foreign competition. The administration has said it will prioritize criminal aliens for deportation, but critics have expressed concern the administration will pursue mass deportation, which would include illegal immigrants that are otherwise acting lawfully.

Unite Here represents 270,000 members across the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries. The union, in general, has been a vocal supporter of a more open immigration system.

By: Connor D. Wolf | August 22, 2017

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