Advocates, immigrants, and elected officials on Monday decried the Trump administration’s decision to revoke a provisional status that has protected tens of thousands of immigrants from Honduras from deportation for nearly 20 years.
Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, the immigrant advocacy group based in East Boston that organized Monday’s rally at the State House, called the termination of temporary protected status for Honduras an “ill-advised and cruel decision.”
She said it was “part of a larger strategy to criminalize the more than 300,000 immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti.”
Honduras is the sixth country to lose temporary protected status since President Trump took office, meaning about 300,000 immigrants have been told they must leave the country next year, seek an alternative immigration status, or face deportation.
The protection for some 60,000 Hondurans — more than 1,400 in Massachusetts — will expire Jan. 5, 2020.
For about an hour, one speaker after the next promised to not only stand in solidarity with immigrants but also to fight to bring about legislative reforms.
State Representatives Mike Connolly of Cambridge, Adrian Madaro of East Boston, and Christine Barber of Somerville addressed the crowd, as did Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who is running for congress.
Patricia Carbajal, a single mother and construction worker from Honduras who has lived in the country with temporary protected status, told the sign-waving crowd of several dozen that she has lived in the United States for almost 20 years, paying taxes and abiding by the law.
“Every time we renew TPS they run our fingerprints,” she said. “I’m cleaner than Donald Trump.”
TPS is a humanitarian program that protects immigrants from certain countries affected by crisis or natural disaster from deportation, allowing them to live and work in the United States legally. But it is not a track to permanent residency or citizenship.
Immigration advocates have heavily criticized the administration’s decisions to rescind the status, particularly for people from Haiti and El Salvador — and now Honduras — arguing that racial animus has been the deciding factor in discontinuing the program, not whether the affected countries have recovered from disaster.
A country’s designation lasts six to 18 months and is renewed at the discretion of the executive branch.
Some have said the program, by definition, was meant to be only temporary, even though some recipients have been in the country for decades.
But Representative James McGovern, of Worcester, who helped draft the legislation that created temporary protected status decades ago when he worked for the late representative Joe Moakley, said after the rally that the key word being overlooked in the debate about the status is not “temporary” but “protected.”
“I was just in El Salvador in December. It is more violent today than it was during the war. Honduras is incredibly violent. These are like war zones, in essence, and sending people back, you are sending them to uncertainty and maybe even death,” McGovern said.
“I don’t quite understand why these people have become such a political football,’’ he said. “I know Joe Moakley is looking down from heaven and is saying ‘you have to stand up and you have to fight for these people.’ ”
Representative Joe Kennedy III, a Democrat from Brookline, said, “Let me be absolutely clear: We see you. We hear you. Although this administration has lost site of the American dream doesn’t mean the rest of us have. In the land of opportunity, we embrace our neighbor when they are struggling.”
The crowd also urged the state legislature to pass the revised version of the Safe Communities Act, a bill that would limit state and local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities and turn Massachusetts into a so-called sanctuary state
Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, told the crowd that it plans to amend its TPS lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of Haitians and Salvadorans to also include Hondurans.
The suit alleges the federal government is discriminating against immigrants of color by ending the temporary protections.