MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Okay. I've got three words for you, Temporary Protected Status. It's a wonky term with pretty weighty meaning for thousands of Salvadoran immigrants living here in the D.C. region. Temporary Protected Status or TPS is a diplomatic rarity of sorts. It's granted to a country during political turmoil or a natural disaster and allows immigrants already in the U.S. a short term opportunity to work here and send money back home. But for many immigrants, these temporary stays have turned into a decade or more of living in the country. Kate Sheehy spoke with local Salvadorans about their search for stability in a system full of uncertainty and their quest for an increasingly rare prize, permanent residency.
MS. KATE SHEEHY
Buenos dias. Husband and wife, Rosa Maya and Jose Noboa live in a modest brick house in a quiet neighborhood in Hyattsville, Md. They have five sons, four of whom were born in the U.S. during the 15 years they have been here. Their youngest is just a month old. Since 2001, they have been working under a Temporary Protected Status or TPS. Rosa says before they were granted TPS she was always nervous.
MS. ROSA MAYA
(Through translator) The four years without TPS, I was afraid to go to work, that immigration would come. You live with anxiety, you never relax, you fear everyone.
With TPS, Rosa says she feels more comfortable at least for now. Work authorization under TPS is only valid for 18 months at a time. She'd like to stay in this country. Rosa visited El Salvador for the first time since coming to the U.S. last May. She says she was happy to see her family, but it no longer felt like home.
(Through translator) When you come here as a young person, you hope to see your country the way you felt it with the same happiness. But now you don't feel the same way.
Her husband, Jose, has not been back since he left.
MR. JOSE NOBOA
(Through translator) For me, I'm Salvadoran, but I like it better here. My sons were born here, they are in a school here. Yes, this is my country.
They are hoping Jose's boss will be their sponsor to apply for residency. Jose's been working as a truck driver with the same company for nine years.
(Through translator) He says if there's the opportunity he would love to help us.
This is a relationship many Salvadorans with TPS hope to develop with an employer.
MS. CECE TUEROS
Thank you for calling Cavalier Services. This is Cece, how can I help you?
Cece Tueros is the human resources manager at Cavalier Maintenance Services in Fairfax, Va. The company staffs cleaning crews at building around Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. She says 35 percent of her employees are Salvadorans with TPS and they have sponsored employees for residency in the past.
If we have a good employee that has been with the company for a long time, I mean, we would like to give that person the opportunity to become a resident alien or change the status and be a citizen.
She says new immigration laws enacted in the past two years have made this more costly for companies because the employer is now responsible for the total cost of sponsoring an employee.
Andrea Rodriguez is the director of legal services at the Central American Resource Center or carecen in Northwest D.C. Right now, her organization is helping Salvadorans complete their TPS applications for 2012. She says TPS provides immediate relief for job security, but over time, people find themselves in a difficult position.
MS. ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
There's this level of instability in not being able to know if at the end of the 18 months you're able to stay in the United States or you have to leave.
And then, there's the stress of knowing loved ones, thousands of miles away are relying on you to survive.
They're a bridge between the United States and their home country, but it's a huge burden to be that bridge and to be on TPS.
Back in Hyattsville, Rosa Maya and Jose Noboa are visiting with friends who have come by to see their new baby boy. Rosa says she's worried her application for TPS may be rejected this year. She considers what she would do if she and her husband were not granted TPS again.
(Through translator) If they send us away, deport us, what would I do? Well, if I see that my sons are safer here I would hide. I would go to another state where they couldn't find me.
Rosa says it makes her sad to see news stories about children who are left behind when their parents are deported. She says she won't let that happen to her family. I'm Kate Sheehy.
You can see photos from this story and learn more about Temporary Protected Status on our website, metroconnection.org.
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