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Migrant Justice: ‘We should not have to live in fear’ | Opinion

‘We should not have to live in fear’ | Opinion

Published: Jan. 08, 2023

By Fidelina Alfaro

President Biden’s recent decision to extend Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, protection for me and my countrymen from El Salvador is a great relief. TPS is a provision under which the government grants protection from deportation to people from certain countries afflicted by natural disasters, war, or other dangerous conditions.

My name is Fidelina Alfaro and I have been a Temporary Protected Status holder for 21 years. In recent years, especially during the Trump administration’s attempt to end TPS, I could no longer work and engage in daily activities without the fear of deportation.

TPS holders who have lived in the U.S. for a long time should have a pathway to citizenship, so we can vote and fully participate in American life, without fear that our TPS status will be revoked by an anti-immigrant president and administration.

Our family came to New Jersey in 1995 looking for a better future and were fortunate enough to have work permits for which we could apply. This was associated with the TPS status that was granted in 2001 to immigrants from El Salvador after an earthquake there.

It’s not easy for anybody to immigrate to another country and leave their family without knowing if they will be able to see them again. I immigrated here looking for a better future for my kids and to flee from the violence and lack of opportunities in my country. I wanted my children to have access to education and a better future.

We have paid taxes and contributed to the state and country since the beginning.

My daughter Yeni studied to become a public school teacher at Montclair State University. We paid for her studies by working two jobs with great effort. It was a dream come true for me and my husband to see our firstborn finish her university degree. She is the first in our family to have a college degree.

Now I am also developing my education. I’m 56 years old and I’m finishing my GED at Eastwick College in Nutley. I believe this is a country of opportunities and I plan to make the most of them.

During the pandemic, I was a caretaker for elderly individuals. I had to work even as others had to stay home. I contracted COVID-19 in April 2020 when the virus was new. Several of my clients died.

COVID was super tough for me. When I got infected I thought I would die. I was very scared. As it was early on, the hospital did not want to see me because they said I was contagious. Since I work to care for older people, I was constantly exposed to all sorts of illnesses and viruses. I was lucky that I recovered.

During this time, my husband was working to make sure grocery stores were stocked. My son is still living with us and is in high school. There is still much work to be done so that he too can go to university.

Our stories are not unique. All TPS holders have contributed to the communities in the United States. It’s time the U.S. Congress passes a humane immigration policy to allow TPS and other immigrants to adjust their status and obtain permanent protections.

Pending legislation like the Registry Act and the American Dream and Promise Act would both grant a meaningful pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants including TPS holders who came to the U.S. for protection and to establish a new home.

We should not have to live in fear that one day we will be separated from our children. We helped keep our families and communities intact during the pandemic. Our children deserve to grow up with both parents and full support from the U.S. government to reach their full potential so they can better serve their communities.

Fidelina Alfaro is a member of the New Jersey TPS Committee, a project supported by the American Friends Service Committee. She lives with her family in Englewood.