Fear and TPS

This article from today's Washington Post brings up some important concerns about communication failures between our immigration system and the people it serves and the mistrust immigrants have of government institutions.

Temporary Protective Status (TPS) is granted to nationals of countries particularly hard hit by natural disasters or violence. But people who have TPS must renew their membership in the program. If they don't, they join the masses of the undocumented. It's in their interests and those of the enforcement crowd to keep them registered and accounted for by the government.

But the clutter of misinformation built up by over-optimistic proponents of immigrants' rights and hysterical reactions from the anti-immigration camp seem to have combined with the traditionally poor channels from the government to immigrants to cause thousands of people to neglect to apply for extension of their legal status.

Some people think they're about to apply for the guest worker program included in S. 2611, so they want to save money for application fees; but, they don't know the program doesn't yet exist. Or they know about the provisions in the new bill that say that they must have been undocumented on a certain day to qualify for the path to residency and so want their status to expire. Some don't want to remind the authorities that they're here in case they need to hide in the future. (And given past immigration policies like special registration, a simple appearance to fill out forms could result in, you know, a vacation to Guantanamo.) And some just don't have the money to pay the $250 filing fee because they just paid taxes.

The tax problem is particularly interesting. These folks live here on a temporary basis, documented but not permanently, and certainly are not citizens, and they can't pay to continue to live here because they have no money left after paying taxes? This brings up a huge class of immigrants whose are being ignored -- or at least misunderstood -- in the debate, those who come here legally, pay taxes, and still qualify for status of some kind but who, for various reasons, slip into the ranks of the undocumented. (And sometimes this happens because of the death of a relative or the inefficiency of the immigration system.) Are they really the same as those sneaky border jumpers whom we must treat like the dastardly criminals they are?


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