After Hurricane Stan swamped Guatemala, and an earthquake struck Pakistan last month, the U.S. government responded with blankets, food, medicine and a bounty of aid.
Now both countries are asking the U.S. government to make a more controversial humanitarian gesture—temporarily stop deporting their citizens who are here illegally.
Officials from Guatemala have convened committees of merchants and ministers to make their case in Chicago with a delegation planning to join a rally in Washington on Wednesday.
Pakistani activists in Chicago are planning a media blitz in ethnic newspapers and on radio in support of the measure, known as temporary protected status (TPS).
Both groups are lobbying Illinois members of Congress, with supporters arguing that returning their citizens home would create a burden on their chaotic and devastated homelands at the worst possible time.
While in Chicago to meet with community leaders recently, Guatemala Foreign Minister Jorge Briz said in an interview that his nation hoped to mobilize the “important voice” of the Latino community to overcome general resistance against liberalized immigration laws.
The push illustrates how the relatively obscure immigration benefit of TPS has become an important strategy to help undocumented immigrants. The benefit typically applies to citizens of countries struck by extreme natural disasters, such as Hondurans affected by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
U.S. Reps. Rahm Emanuel and Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrats, recently sent a letter to President Bush arguing that granting TPS to Pakistanis is “consistent with the interests of the United States.”