AFL-CIO focused on federal Temporary Protected Status

The AFL-CIO is renewing and strengthening its commitment to approximately half a million workers, all on federal Temporary Protected Status (TPS), whom, with their families, xenophobic and racist GOP President Donald Trump wants to deport.

The pledges, from federation Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre and other top officials, came at a Nov. 27 ceremony at AFL-CIO headquarters.

TPS beneficiaries, many of whom have been here for decades with their families, fled nations torn by war, natural disaster, internal strife or combinations of those events. TPS beneficiaries have legitimate claims as refugees fleeing such conditions in nations such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Syria and Libya.

And they have legitimate papers. Indeed, each beneficiary must check in with federal immigration officials every six months to renew his or her status, paying $500-$700 each.

But because TPS has the word “temporary” in its title, and because beneficiaries are non-white, Trump, playing to his racist supporters and his own instincts, schemes to throw them and their families out of the country. Until courts stepped in, many faced a 6-month deadline to leave. TPS backers say many will refuse and become part of the exploited underground economy instead.

Many of the TPS workers now are union members, especially in construction and child and elder care. Others work in low-wage occupations or have saved up enough over the years to send their kids to college, run their own businesses, or both.

As a result of Trump’s threat, several unions, led by the Painters and its president, Kenneth Rigmaiden, banded together in a coalition to help win permanent status for the TPS holders – and the TPS Alliance has organized itself nationwide to lobby for them.

“I refuse to stand by and see our country become a country of tear gas and walls” against refugees, Gebre – a political refugee from war-torn Ethiopia decades ago – said, referring to federal agents’ tear-gassing of women and children at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana. “When we save TPS” recipients, “we can raise wages for everybody.”

The agents were acting at Trump’s orders to stop some 5,000 Central American refugees and asylum seekers who trekked across Mexico to gain refuge from war, criminal gangs and natural disasters at home.

“The National TPS Alliance has rallied in front of the White House, lobbied in the Capitol and marched in cities and towns around the country,” Shuler said. Labor was with them, and will be, she declared. “We will not leave our brothers and sisters behind and we will not sit on the sidelines,” Shuler added.

Both spoke at the federation’s annual Meany-Kirkland Human Rights Award ceremony. The award, previously given to foreign organizations, went to the TPS Alliance.