As the summer begins, most freshmen at Wake Technical Community College are happily looking forward to home-cooked meals and time with their families. For me, though, the vacation will be anything but carefree. My parents are immigrants, and while they’ve played by the rules since coming here more than 20 years ago, a policy change by the Trump administration means they could soon be subject to deportation. As this summer begins, I have no idea whether my parents will be able to watch me graduate a few years from now — or if they’ll be forced to start new lives 1,500 miles away in Honduras.
I’m a U.S. citizen — born and raised in North Carolina — but my parents have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which allows immigrants from countries affected by wars or natural disasters to live and work legally in America. Over the years, they’ve built a life here, working hard and raising me as a proud American. Now, though, President Trump is threatening to deport 98% of TPS holders — and while the House just passed legislation to protect us, unless the Senate swiftly follows suit, countless hardworking, law-abiding families like mine could soon face almost unimaginable upheaval.
Besides uprooting families, ending TPS would lead to the loss of workers who have contributed to the U.S. economy for decades. There are 318,000 TPS holders in the U.S., and more than 94% of them are employed, earning $7.3 billion and paying $1.5 billion in taxes, according to New American Economy.
Certainly, my parents have worked hard since coming to America. When Hurricane Mitch devastated much of Honduras in 1998, my mother fled to America, and thanks to TPS she was able to come to Siler City to work in the Townsend chicken plant. That’s where she met my father, who had trained as a civil engineer in Honduras, but who had similarly received TPS and found work in the poultry plant after making the long journey northward.
My parents kept working hard over the years, moving to Raleigh in search of jobs when the Townsend plant closed in 2011. When my mother was left unable to work following a terrible auto accident, my father worked twice as hard in order to pay her medical bills. He took construction jobs, and found work at a granite facility in Youngsville, making kitchen countertops and putting in 50-plus-hour weeks to support our family. Along the way, my parents found time to volunteer with local churches, and my dad counseled people with mental health issues and helped women suffering from domestic violence.
My parents’ hard work and sacrifices have inspired me to work harder, too, and to do more for my community. I volunteer with El Pueblo, a nonprofit organization offering leadership development for Latino youth where I teach high school students about community organizing, public speaking and political activism. At Wake Tech, I study film and hope to become a director or a screenwriter. I also work at Regal Cinemas, earning money to help my family and save up for film equipment. I’ve never even been to Honduras, but thanks to my parents, I have a bright future here in America.
Unfortunately, my parents might not be allowed to stay to see my future unfold. And we’re not the only family facing separation — an estimated 273,000 U.S. citizens have parents with TPS status from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti. In many cases, canceling TPS would force those American-born children to live with their parents in unfamiliar countries still experiencing violence and economic instability. My father’s hometown of San Pedro Sula, for instance, has been called “the murder capital of the world.”
America would gain nothing by deporting hardworking, well-integrated people like my parents, and countless families — and many U.S. citizens — would suffer along the way. That’s why our leaders must do everything they can to keep TPS holders safe, to keep their families together, and to allow them to keep making important contributions to this country.
It’s time for the Senate to act, and to pass legislation to give lasting protections to my parents and hundreds of thousands of other TPS holders.