Originally Published on NBC News
Maria Peña - September 22, 2020
A coalition of groups opposed to President Donald Trump's decision to end protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants has embarked on a national tour to put a focus on the issue and mobilize voters.
As part of of National TPS Alliance's "Road to Justice" tour, 20 people with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, started a bus tour Monday that will continue until Nov. 13, going to 54 cities in 32 states. The tour will culminate in Washington, D.C., where groups plan to appeal to legislators in Congress.
TPS is a program instituted by Congress in 1990 that allows immigrants from certain countries that have gone through natural disasters, civil strife or other "extraordinary circumstances" to stay in the United States and be protected from deportation. This included Hurricane Mitch, which hit Central America as the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in 1998, or the catastrophic earthquake that wiped out large parts of Haiti in 2010.
Previous administrations have continued to extend TPS status when deadlines approached, but the Trump administration began an attempt to dismantle the protections in 2017 for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan.
It has argued that most countries in the program have recovered from the related disasters or conflicts and that the status has been renewed for years beyond its need.
The activists and their families launched the tour from outside the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, where three judges recently gave the green light to the Trump administration to end the program. The administration could expel people from Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti as soon as March 2021 and from El Salvador by November 2021.
Those with TPS status would have to adjust their immigration status — either by sponsorship of an employer, spouse or child, or by marriage to a citizen or legal resident, to avoid possible eventual deportation.
During a press conference Monday that was broadcast live on the internet, activists urged those who were eligible to vote to exercise their right Nov. 3 as a way to oppose Trump's TPS actions.
"We are going to vote for justice, for the TPS community," said Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, also known as CHIRLA. "President (Trump) and his administration are racist and do not care about the damage they are causing to our community."
Pablo Alvarado, from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), accused the court of "advancing white supremacy, rather than advancing racial justice."
“The fight is not over in this building, in this court. We will use every legal resource that we have at our disposal to protect the TPS community throughout the country,” he said.
According to Alvarado, the tour will disseminate three key messages: “Tepesianos have earned the right” to permanent legalization and eventual citizenship; the future of TPS and immigrant families is at stake in the elections; and immigrants have suffered disproportionately the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Trump administration has said it's only enforcing existing immigration laws and that it's up to Congress to change the laws.
Salas said at the press conference it's the Republican-led Senate which has not wanted to put to a vote Democratic legislation passed in June 2019 by the House of Representatives that would give legal status to TPS holders as well as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign has called the TPS decisions "politically motivated," and it has said he would protect enrollees from being returned to unsafe countries.