Demonstrators gathered Tuesday in Manhattan to protest a federal appeals court ruling saying the Trump administration has the discretion to deport immigrants from Sudan, Nicaragua and El Salvador by terminating the humanitarian "Temporary Protected Status" that let them stay in the United States for years, if not decades.
The ruling on Monday by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court in California. That panel halted the deportations during a legal challenge of the president's suspension of the program allowing nationals of designated foreign countries stricken by disaster, war or other calamities to stay in the United States.
On the corner of 48th Street and Third Avenue a group of about 50 demonstrators chanted: "We are here to stay!" and "We won’t go back! We will fight back!" Those who spoke said they want the entire Ninth Circuit to reconsider the case, the Congress to pass a law to let grantees of the TPS program stay, or both.
About 300,000 immigrants and their families are affected by Trump’s action, according to the ruling, which was 2 to 1. The dissenting judge said the deportations should remain blocked, among other reasons, because of an allegation that the administration violated long standing bureaucratic regulations, and because the challengers are likely to win the case.
Among the speakers Tuesday were Gracie Romero, 14, a Bay Shore High School freshman, and her mom, Cecilia Martinez, 38, a house cleaner and day laborer who came here from Santa Ana, El Salvador — whose nationals were granted Temporary Protected Status in 2001 after earthquakes devastated the country.
"My life in Long Island has been beautiful. I mean, I feel peace. I feel home. It’s my home. I don’t want to go back to El Salvador. I really — can’t go back. My kids are here. Our family is happy here. You know, every day, we wake up. We go to work, they go to school, and now, last night, we couldn’t even sleep because of this whole TPS ending," said Martinez, who said she came to the United States at age 15. Her native land, she said, remains too violent and politically unstable to return to.
Under the TPS program, grantees like Martinez are allowed to live and work legally in the United States, where both her children were born. Her son, 19, is about to go to college at Farmingdale State.
In 2018, the Trump administration terminated TPS for Salvadorans, arguing that the issue of the earthquakes — the temporary condition that led to the U.S. government to grant the protective status — is now moot. The matter has been tied up in court since.
Gracie said Trump shouldn’t kick out people who have built their lives and families in the United States.
"America has always been advertised as the greatest country in the world. It’s always been shown that it welcomes immigrants. America is the country that’s built on immigrants," Gracie said. "And just sending them all away, like they’re nothing, throwing away their future, everything that they dreamed of, for what? For not being born here?"
According to figures from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, there are about 51,000 TPS grantees in New York States, the majority of whom are from El Salvador.