There are concerns, fears and many, many questions. For Salvadorans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Hondurans protected under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the Department of Homeland Security’s decision not to renew their status has left them desperately searching for options on how they can stay in the country where they have built their lives.
To help ease some of the concerns of these individuals—many of whom have lived in the United States for 20 years or more—an information session will be held on Tuesday, March 13, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., at the “Yes We Can” Community Center.
Representatives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide information and answer questions on TPS for Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. The event is hosted by U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice, in conjunction with Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell, Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe and Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams.
Yanira Chacon-Lopez, who oversees the immigration ministry at St. Brigid’s Church, knows just how crucial information sessions such as these are. The church put one together at the end of January and it drew 65 families—despite being put together in just one week.
“We have a large number of our members affected by TPS and a large number of people from El Salvador and Honduras,” said Chacon-Lopez, noting that the church currently has three Spanish masses. “The other issue we’ve been seeing from our community is the fear, the worry, because there is no other program out there they can transfer to immigration-wise once TPS is finished.”
Chacon-Lopez added that people from El Salvador have until March 19 to renew their status for the last time; many of these residents have been renewing their status every 18 months since before 2001, at the steep price of $495. While the church does not fill out paperwork, Chacon-Lopez said they have seen an uptick in people asking questions and for immigration advice, as well as letters they can submit in immigration courts confirming they’re a member of St. Brigid’s.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are also a major concern for members, Chacon-Lopez noted. The church is planning to host a foreign immigration forum in Spanish on March 18 at 1:30 p.m., which will address, among other topics, what people need to know about TPS and immigration laws. It will also cover what one’s rights are if they are put in detention.
And while Chacon-Lopez said the church is acting to educate members on their rights and what they can do, the idea of losing a majority of her fellow congregants is still worrisome.
“My main concern is the children. I’ve seen the anxiety on their faces and how worried they are,” she said. “It’s going to be very sad if we’re seeing our own neighbors disappearing from our communities. We need to be more compassionate with our brothers and sisters in this situation and try to do something.”