Petition Aims to Protect Illegal Mexican Immigrants

Susan Carroll, Houston Chronicle, December 5, 2010

It’s a potentially explosive idea being circulated on petitions in Houston’s Latino supermarkets, lobbied for in Chicago’s Hispanic neighborhoods and now is landing on the front pages of the Spanish-language press.

With more than 30,000 dead in the last four years from drug violence in Mexico, some immigrant advocates are starting to lobby the U.S. government to grant millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico “Temporary Protected Status,” a kind of temporary reprieve from deportation generally reserved for countries ravaged by natural disasters or destabilized by war.

“There is a big chance of getting kidnapped and killed over there right now. It is extremely, extremely violent,” said Victor Ibarra, the president of the Houston advocacy organization Alianza Mexicana. “That is why we’re asking for temporary protection.”

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But the idea, which would require the approval of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, is highly controversial and, many say, unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. Matthew Chandler, a DHS spokesman, said DHS is not considering TPS for Mexican nationals.

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Haitians granted TPA

Temporary protected status gives people the opportunity to live and work legally here but offers no path toward a green card or citizenship. The U.S. government granted TPS to Salvadorans after two massive earthquakes in 2001 killed 1,200 people. After Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Nicaraguans and Hondurans were also offered the special status. In January, Napolitano granted Haitians TPS in response to the earthquakes there.

Supporters of the idea of granting TPS to Mexicans say it would offer much-needed protection to people who have fled violence south of the border, but do not have viable asylum cases, which typically require that applicants face persecution in their home countries for specific reasons such as their race, religion or membership in a particular social group.

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