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As Activists March on Washington, Harvard Should Stand Behind TPS Residency

By Thomas Maisonneuve
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

The Harvard community is about to witness a rousing example of the sort of transformative leadership administrators so often urge students to aspire to. No, we’re not talking about Harvard’s understated divestment announcement. Instead, students should look to the Harvard custodians, staff, and activists marching on Washington next week.

According to the Harvard TPS Coalition, approximately 200 members of the Harvard community are Temporary Protected Status holders. This immigration designation allows foreign nationals to remain in the U.S if they are unable to return safely to their countries of origin, often due to conflict or natural disaster. Harvard custodians, dining workers, and union members, many here on TPS themselves, co-founded the Harvard TPS Coalition in 2018 after the Trump administration abruptly revoked El Salvador’s TPS designation.

Ever since, the coalition has worked to protect the precarious status of TPS holders in the U.S. Last week, its members breathed a sigh of relief as the Department of Homeland Security announced a 15-month extension of the TPS designation for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan, a clear win for every TPS holder from these still-embattled countries. But, after celebrations, they quickly steeled for the greater fight ahead: ensuring a path to permanent residency for TPS holders stays in the current catch-all, hotly debated U.S. House reconciliation bill.

While the extension of TPS eligibility is well worth celebrating, it is by no means enough. The Temporary Protected Status program offers an array of benefits, including a blanket path to effective asylum without the red tape linked to the actual asylum application. The program is a humane acknowledgment of the fact that sometimes entire countries urgently need evacuating. But, unlike those granted asylum, TPS holders have no direct path to legal residency, meaning they are effectively trapped in migratory uncertainty. For the thousands of TPS holders who fled domestic horror and found refuge in the United States, there is simply no optimistic outcome under the current legislative framework. The Supreme Court recently deemed all illegal entrants ineligible for green cards or other permanent resident status, a previous legislative grey area. Once the current extension expires, they will be left out in the bitter cold — irrespective of the conditions of their home country or of the length and breadth of their American lives.

Activist calls for a path to residency are not only justified — they are the only reasonable response to a migratory framework that tacitly recognizes the asylum eligibility of TPS holders while simultaneously condemning them to needless precarity.

The coalition's organizing is thus urgent. Its members are right to take the fight to Congress, which has the power to legislate a path to residency. Their upcoming March on Washington alongside the National TPS Coalition couldn’t be better timed: A path to permanent residency for TPS holders is a potential part of the catch-all reconciliation bill currently being debated by congressional Democrats.

Harvard students have been welcomed onto the TPS Coalition’s bus to Washington. We applaud every single one of our classmates that has taken them up on the offer, likely in acknowledgment of the strange power a Harvard student’s affiliation with a cause has.

Whatever power Harvard students have to influence political discourse, the power of the Harvard President is astronomically greater. University President Lawrence S. Bacow has previously admirably written to Congress and President Biden himself urging that TPS status be extended for certain countries. Now he should take the lead from his own visionary staff and join the call for a direct path to residency for TPS status holders — many of whom keep his university running, and, independent of the labor they give Harvard, deserve our support; especially since a direct line can be drawn from the U.S.’s disastrous neocolonial meddling to many TPS designated countries.

Harvard’s TPS Coalition is showing us how to work to change the world. They deserve our raucous support in return.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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