On Thursday, a day after a federal judge granted immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation by the Trump administration, a national bus tour stopped in Morristown to press for continuation of Temporary Protected Status for thousands of immigrants.
TPS protects migrants from 10 countries hit by national disasters or civil strife. The U.S. has renewed this program every few years, but the government now contends it’s safe for refugees from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua to return to their homelands.
A judge in San Francisco on Wednesday ruled these immigrants can stay while their class-action lawsuit is heard.
The suit alleges the White House has planned the deportations with a bias against non-white, non-European immigrants, violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
“The issues are at least serious enough to preserve the status quo,” ruled U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen.
“The injunction means that the countries that had been canceled under the current administration are no longer canceled, and for the time being people who had TPS can renew their TPS,” explained Brian Lozano of the Morristown-based Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center, which organized Thursday’s “Journey for Justice” caravan stop and press conference at St. Margaret’s Church.
Dozens of TPS holders have been riding in the caravan, which set out from California in August. Organized by the grassroots National TPS Alliance, the tour plans 44 stops over 12 weeks.
Bus riders shared their stories in Spanish. Mayors Tim Dougherty of Morristown and James Dodd of Dover also spoke, along with Darcy Gallego from the office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
“How simple can it be? TPS to residency, yes? You paid your registration fee. You came here legally. You built lives. Raised children. Started businesses,” said Dougherty, noting that about one-third of Morristown’s population is Latino.
“How simple it could be for our elected officials in Washington to fix this permanently,” he said.
Dodd said the nation is facing “unimaginable scenarios, threats and situations that should only be possible in nightmares.”
“If 10 years ago… someone would have told me our government would be orchestrating mass deportations of TPS recipients, and ripping children out of the arms of their parents at the border, we would have all called them crazy,” Dodd said.
Without an organized response, the Dover mayor warned, “the decisions of a selected few can and will destroy the fabric that makes this nation a nation of the people and for the people.”
Countries with the most TPS recipients are El Salvador (195,000), Honduras (44,000), and Haiti (50,000).
Deporting Salvadorans, Hondurans and Haitians now in the TPS program will cost the U.S. economy billions in lost taxes and contributions to Social Security and Medicare, and will harm their 273,000 U.S.-born children who are citizens, Dodd said.
“It makes more sense to fix our antiquated immigration laws than it is to deport hundreds of thousands of Americans. Yes, they are Americans… We’re proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves,” he said.
The bus tour’s next scheduled stops are Philadelphia, New York, Virginia and, a day after Election Day, in Washington DC, Lozano said.
Morristown Green Correspondent Bill Lescohier contributed to this report.