Crista Ramos defines herself as a shy teenager, but almost three years ago her desire to defend her parents against possible deportation led her to raise her voice for them where necessary. Today, at 17, she has already told the story of her family to the Pope in Rome and to congressmen in Washington, and is the main plaintiff of a petition before the courts to restore temporary protected status (TPS, for its acronym in English). ), a program that offers immigration relief to tens of thousands of people of six nationalities who, like his mother, have been in the United States for decades. Donald Trump wanted to end the program in 2018.
“When Trump ended TPS in 2018 I was 14 years old. I did not know what it was, but my mother told me that it gave her the opportunity to live in this country and be able to work and at that moment she told me that she did not know what was going to happen in our family, “recalls Ramos from the city of San Pablo, in California. That conversation turned the girl who until then was focused on the school and her soccer practice into an activist willing to knock on all doors to prevent her mother from being deported. “I became more active in my community. I am still a bit quiet, but before I was very quiet and I have had to mature a little more and talk to people about what is happening with my family. There are more than 250,000 children in this situation and that is why I have had to speak, not only for my family, but for those of those who are in the same situation, ”says the young woman.
His mother, Cristina Morales, came to the United States without documents in 1993. She was only 12 years old and was fleeing from an abusive father who made her head north in search of a life free of violence. Eight years later, in 2001, the George W. Bush Administration implemented TPS, an immigration relief for undocumented Salvadorans in the country, after the Central American country suffered two devastating earthquakes. With this benefit, which the United States has granted since the 1990s to migrants from different countries where wars or natural disasters have occurred, Morales was free from deportation and could work legally. Thus she was able to develop her career as a teacher’s assistant in a school, settle in the country and have her two children: Crista, 17, and Diego, who is now 15.
One government after another was renewing the TPS to El Salvador. Morales could work, but that status did not give him a direct path to citizenship, since such a decision must pass through Congress, something that in recent years has not been a priority in Washington. Therefore, when Trump announced in January 2018 that he was canceling that benefit for Salvadorans, the 39-year-old woman felt her life was falling apart. “It was a very hard blow for me. In the Catholic school where I work there were children crying because they said they were going to separate them from their parents. How could I say anything if I was feeling the same pain? ”Recalls the mother. When he got home, he gathered his children and told them about the situation. “I told them that we could no longer have the life we had because we had to see what was going to happen with TPS and it was very sad to see my children cry. But, as we believe in God, we told them that we were going to fight together although perhaps we were not going to be able to have the peace of mind that we had before, but that we were going to seek justice.
That’s when Morales and his daughter Crista turned to community groups and, with the help of organizations like the Civil Rights and Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (Ndlon), sued the government. American; specifically to Kirstjen Nielsen who, as Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security at the time, was responsible for immigration policies. Although the Salvadoran teenager is the main plaintiff In the process, a total of nine beneficiaries of the program, including Cristina Morales, and five American children of migrants with that status, who petitioned the court for the restoration of TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, a program that it is estimated to protect 400,000 people in those countries. In addition, Honduras and Nepal are also beneficiaries of this status, although they are not included in this demand.
A “racist” measure
In Ramos vs. Nielsen, the plaintiffs allege that the measure is unconstitutional and that it was adopted to enforce the “anti-immigrant and white supremacist agenda” of the Trump administration who, shortly before ending TPS, referred to the nations receiving such relief as “countries shitty”. “He violated the Constitution and the administrative process, used racist reasons and violated the rights of the children of Tepesianos [los beneficiarios del TPS] saying that they had to choose between staying with their parents or staying in their country of origin, ”explains Cal Soto, a lawyer for the Ndlon organization. The lawsuit is now in a West Coast Ninth Circuit court and, despite a triad of judges dismissing it in September, the plaintiffs appealed, forcing the Trump administration to extend the validity of the program early december.
“Even if we lose the case, we have won in many ways because Trump wanted to cancel this status four years ago and we now know that all Tepesians have survived the Trump Administration and that is an incredible achievement,” says Soto. And remember that as long as the litigation is ongoing in court, its benefits remain. That gives hope to those with that status, especially since President-elect Joe Biden has promised a permanent solution for undocumented immigrants with temporary reliefs like themselves. However, a path to citizenship would pass because Congress passes a law, so a bipartisan consensus is likely to be necessary.
“I have gone to Washington DC to speak with congressmen about TPS because many do not know what it is and we have gone to ask that they approve a path for permanent residence for Tepesianos. They are in limbo and this demand is only giving us time, but there is no concrete step for them ”, recognizes Crista Ramos. For the young woman, that Trump lost the election was a “relief” because he was the one who ended TPS, but she knows that there is still a lot of work to be done. “We hope that the new administration will work with us or listen to the stories and our situation and that they will do the right thing and pass a reform,” he says.
The requests of the teenager not to be separated from her family also reached the ears of the Pope. It was in 2018 when he traveled to the Vatican with a delegation of children of TPS beneficiaries to the canonization of the Salvadoran priest Óscar Arnulfo Romero and spoke to him about his situation. “He told us that migrating is a human right, that we should not give up and that he was going to pray for us. It was a very beautiful experience that I will never forget, ”says Ramos. Now, while he awaits the new court decision, he is completing his junior year of high school, and he is already in the college search process. “I want to study international relations. I have thought about being a lawyer, working in the government or in the United Nations. I have many ideas, but I do know that I want to help people, “he says. “And I will continue to fight for my family.”