WASHINGTON D.C — Maryland Senators Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D), along with Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va), are calling on the United States Senate to pass the Safe Environment for Countries Under Repression and in Emergency (SECURE) Act.
The act would allow individuals living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to apply for legal permanent residency.
“For decades, individuals living in the United States have been granted Temporary Protected Status to stay here when their home countries have become too dangerous to return to because of devastating natural disasters, ongoing civil war or extreme violence,” Senator Van Hollen said. “These men and women have lived here legally for years; they have jobs and businesses and are our neighbors. We cannot in good faith send them back to some of the most dangerous places in the world. The courts have made clear this administration’s decisions are unjust, and this legislation will take permanent action to give these families certainty and security.”
TPS is a legal status granted for a limited amount of time to foreign citizens; its guidelines also include migrants fleeing dangerous epidemics.
According to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, DED is a humanitarian program that uses the president’s discretion to defer an individual’s deportation as part of his constitutional powers.
“Although DED is not a specific immigration status, individuals covered by DED are not subject to removal from the United States, usually for a designated period of time,” the department writes.
Van Hollen’s office estimates that there are about 437,000 people living under TPS in the United States from 10 countries, including Somalia, Sudan, El Salvador and Haiti. The SECURE Act would allow individuals to apply for legal permanent residency if they meet the requirements of the most recent designation and have been continuously present in the United States for the past three years.
“The Senate must act and the president must sign into law protection for Dreamers, who mostly have known no other country but America, as well as TPS and DED recipients, many of whom have been here for decades as violence and repression continue to rage in their home country,” said Senator Cardin. “These individuals have lawfully lived and worked in the U.S. as our neighbors, as they sought refuge in the U.S. We have an obligation to take action and give needed predictability and safety to people who are in an uncertain status. We need to stand up for the American values of compassion and diversity that have made this country stronger.”
The introduction of the SECURE Act in the Senate follows the passage of similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
On June 5, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 passed the House of Representatives. Under its guidelines, the act would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers. The DREAM Act, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, provides residency status to individuals who were brought into the United States as minors.
The DREAM and Promise Acts would provide a path to legalization for Dreamers, and people living under TPS and DED protections. It would grant conditional permanent residence status for 10 years. According to a summary of the legislation, it would also cancel and prohibit removal proceedings against individuals who are in the process of gaining permanent resident status.
According to Van Hollen’s office, the SECURE Act works a little differently from the DREAM and Promise Acts. The SECURE Act would provide stability to people living in the precarious situation of possible deportation by allowing them to apply for legal permanent residency.
By extension, the bill provides stability to communities as a whole. Deportation has an effect not only on the lives of individuals but also on the people around them.
UndocuBlack Network is an organization of currently and formerly undocumented Black people, which has a local chapter in the D.C. area.
“As someone who grew up in Maryland, I am incredibly proud of Senators Van Hollen and Cardin for reintroducing the SECURE Act,” said Jonathan Jayes-Green, who is a co-founder and serves as director of UndocuBlack. “We desperately need a permanent solution for TPS and DED holders, and every member of the Senate needs to support this bill. We also urgently need protection for the 4,000 Liberians on DED who risk becoming undocumented on March 31 if a solution is not reached.”
The next step for the act will be for the Senate to vote.
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R. I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) have joined Senators Cardin, Van Hollen, Feinstein and Kaine in supporting and introducing the legislation to the Senate.