On January 8th, I was given a kind of death sentence. That’s the date DHS announced to end El Salvador’s TPS (Temporary Protected Status). I’ve had almost a month to process the implications of this, and I don’t feel like I’ve made big leaps. The thing is that I don’t want to process this information. I don’t want to live with September 2019 stuck in my throat because that’s what happens when I think about my future. I just can’t breathe.
It hurts to think about the possibility that I would have to pack my life and move into another country. For permanent residents and American citizens, travelling to another country is exciting; it’s doable. For me, travelling abroad was never an option. Travelling abroad is a luxury. It’s clearly expensive, but when you’re under a conditional program, it’s reckless.
Immigrating is not traveling. My mother didn’t bring me into the U.S. so we could vacation. She brought me here to live. I don’t know what it’s like to travel to a new country because of a desire to explore. I don’t know even know about airplanes. My passport’s never been stamped.
And now, in under two years, I could be forced into another country. It makes me furious because now I’m an adult, and I know what I want out of life. I deserve a say. I deserve to use my college degree.
There are a total of 200,000 TPS holders in the U.S. Over 23,000 of them live in Virginia, and I imagine that they are feeling angry, distressed, and betrayed right now. The numbers are big, but I don’t personally know many TPS holders. Most people don’t open with “My name is Claudia; I’m here in this country temporarily.”
My network is about to change. These past weeks, I’ve stumbled across young TPS holders online. I can anticipate their stories. The struggle to find financial scholarships. The struggle to renew a driver’s license. What I don’t know is what growing up was like for them because growing up is different for all of us. This Saturday, I get to learn about life with TPS from someone who’s not me or related to me.
This Saturday, February 10th, is the culmination of a month’s work. Together, with Haydi Torres, I co-host An Evening of Hope for the TPS Community. It’s an opportunity for the community to learn more about TPS and to enjoy a line up of artists standing in solidarity with this particular immigrant community.
It’s an event that I need because just like most people don’t open with their immigration status, most people don’t open with their solidarity. Sometimes, I’ll have a friend or college peer reach out to me and say “I’m reading your posts.” That’s as far as most interactions go. The rest of my time online is me speaking into a vacuum. I’m tired of that. I need more from people. I need people to stand up for immigrants because some days, it gets really hard to get out of bed. I want to hear from other people that I matter, that I’m here, that I belong.
Image: Artwork by Eliza Kingsley for An Evening of Hope 2/10/18
Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, and El Salvador have lost TPS and lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online.