With the Immigration Act of 1990, Congress established the Temporary Protected Status program, which gave individuals from countries experiencing armed conflict and environmental disasters the opportunity to stay in the United States. Since then, every administration has renewed TPS. But in January, President Trump announced that he was ending TPS for over 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the United States. Trump has also decided to end TPS for individuals from Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Nepal, among others.
Doris Landaverde, the central character in our film, came to the United States from El Salvador almost two decades ago. A resident of Ayer, she works as a custodian at Harvard University and is the proud mother of three daughters — all American citizens. When Trump announced he was ending TPS for Salvadorans, Landaverde began organizing to promote awareness of and defend TPS. She’s now a leader in the Harvard TPS Coalition and the Comité TPS Massachusetts.
In this film, Landaverde speaks movingly about both the transformative opportunities TPS has created for her and her family, and about the fear and uncertainty brought on by its potential repeal. Although the law can sometimes be a powerful shield that protects individuals, it is our hope that audiences will come away from this film with a deeper appreciation of the human costs of legal change.
On Oct. 3, 2018, the US District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Homeland Security from implementing TPS termination for those from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. The case continues as the government defends the change. But no matter what happens — and even if TPS recipients ultimately prevail — the sudden policy change and resulting uncertainty have permanent costs. A legal victory cannot make up for lost time with family, the months of fear of losing one’s home, and the anxiety that comes with being uncertain about one’s future.
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Tianhao He and Daren Zhang are students at Harvard Law School.