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Siglo 21, Guatemala

It Is Time to Actively Seek
Temporary Protected Status

Translated By Jane Esi Hagan

13 November 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Guatemala - Siglo 21 - Original Article (Spanish)

Temporary Protected Status for immigrants in the United States impedes deportation of illegals while enabling them to obtain work permits while the measure is in effect. This is seen as an important contribution to those countries eligible to receive this benefit, which must necessarily have suffered a natural disaster.

This is the case with El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sudan, Somalia, Haiti and Liberia, whose immigrants in the United States enjoy a series of benefits that our [Guatemalan] citizens do not have, mainly because during the moment of tragedy the government of then-president Alvaro Arzú did not think it necessary to ask for them.

Neighboring countries have received Temporary Protected Status since the beginning of the new century and have continued to receive this protection, which has resulted in a series of positive effects not only for the migrants but for society in general, considering that their situations are similar to those of Guatemalans who travel to the country in the north in search of better economic opportunities.

The events of this past Wednesday in San Marcos and other towns of the highlands provide an enormous opportunity for Guatemala to petition for Temporary Protected Status for our citizens, given that the main reason for which Washington would agree would be the occurrence of a tragedy of grand proportions, such as has befallen us on this occasion.

The situation is one that necessitates Minister of Foreign Relations Harold Caballeros’ taking on the challenge of fighting for Temporary Protected Status, as immigrants themselves have requested from other administrations over the years.

The United States has denied the petitions, half-hearted as they were, from Guatemalan governments. However, on this occasion the conditions are very different and the possibility of attaining Temporary Protected Status is real, which is reason enough to launch a concerted social and diplomatic offensive.

In this sense, the initiative must be taken to the Foreign Affairs Office. There are also other authorities that can aid the efforts, among them the Congress of the Republic, civil society organizations and the Central American Parliament (Parlacén) — in fact, such an action would help justify their existence — in addition to contracting a group of expert lobbyists to act immediately in Washington.

We have already mentioned on prior occasions the importance of immigrants to the country from a socioeconomic viewpoint, which is why we consider this an opportunity not to be missed. This offensive must be undertaken promptly on all possible fronts; a decision of this kind is a topic of heated debate in the American Union.

Nonetheless, it is necessary to remember that the American people and government tend to react very positively to tragedies in developing countries; more reason to insist that this moment is not wasted and that there is an important task to be accomplished. In the short term we can see if this is accomplished and if the right efforts were made.



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