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UPDATED: January 31, 2018 at 1:57 a.m.
Dozens of Harvard affiliates remain uncertain about their futures after government officials announced earlier this month that changes to the Temporary Protected Status program will end protections for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans.
Created by Congress in 1990 to offer provisional humanitarian relief, TPS is a program that provides some immigrants with temporary refuge in the United States if their home countries are affected by armed conflict or natural disaster.
Salvadorans have been eligible for temporary protection to live and work legally in the U.S. since 2001, when two devastating earthquakes struck their country. At the time, the Bush administration determined conditions in El Salvador were too precarious to permit inhabitants to return home.
The decision to scale back the number of immigrants from El Salvador marks the Trump administration’s latest efforts to reverse years of immigration policies that extended protection under TPS for immigrants from not just El Salvador, but also from Haiti and Nicaragua, among several other countries. The Trump administration stripped TPS status from Haitians last month and Nicaraguans last year. Sudanese immigrants will be stripped of their TPS benefits in Nov. 2018, the Trump Administration announced in Sept. 2017.
“We are deeply concerned about the administration’s recent withdrawal of TPS for those from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan and the impact it could have on members of the community,” University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson wrote in an emailed statement. “Our colleagues play a vital role at Harvard and they add to our community in significant ways.”
According to the Harvard International Office website, only three students and scholars across all of Harvard’s schools hail from El Salvador. Six come from Haiti, two from Sudan, and four from Honduras. Liala Buoniconti, a social worker for the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, said the withdrawal of TPS is likely to impact a greater number of staff members than students.
Jackson wrote that the TPS policy shift could impact many Harvard employees.
“There are several dozen members of the Harvard community working across a variety of departments who are likely to be impacted by the recent changes to TPS,” she wrote.
Jackson wrote that the University is working closely with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Harvard Human Resources, and student affairs offices to provide support services as needed for University affiliates who may be affected by the policy changes.
In an email sent to Harvard affiliates Friday, Leslie Kirwan, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean for Administration and Finance, wrote that, at such a turbulent time, the FAS remains “committed to supporting all its members with the resources they need to thrive.”
In the same email, Kirwan wrote that anyone with TPS from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti or El Salvador should contact the immigration and refugee clinic to discuss their options. At the clinic, attorneys and students at Harvard Law School provide immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with free legal consultations about TPS and other immigration concerns like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. HIRC also offers social services during walk-in hours at Cabot Science Library on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 4:30 pm.
The University hired immigration attorney Jason Corral last year to provide legal counsel to undocumented students. Corral, who could not be reached for comment, is the only full-time attorney on campus charged with addressing immigration-related issues.
Buoniconti said the clinic takes a holistic approach in providing both social services and legal support to “folks who may have fear or are scared about the new changes.” Buoniconti said the clinic also offers mental health services.
Last week, the University updated its Undocumented at Harvard website with more information on TPS and the various ways in which affected members of the school can make use of resources on campus.
—Staff writer Edith M. Herwitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @edith_herwitz.
—Staff writer Sonia Kim can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @soniakim211.
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