Cambridge, Mass. — Sixty workers marched on Harvard University President Drew Faust’s office Jan. 31, demanding she take action on behalf of those who hold temporary protected status.
The newly formed Harvard TPS Coalition consists of members of UNITE HERE Local 26 representing dining hall workers, Service Employees Union 32BJ representing custodians; the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3650; the Harvard Graduate Student Union; plus faculty and student supporters.
Two Latinx lead organizers, Martha from UNITE HERE and Doris from SEIU 32BJ, both of whom are from El Salvador, led the group to the door of Faust’s office to deliver a letter with their demands. The letter said in part:
“As you know, the Department of Homeland Security announced, between November 6, 2017, and January 8, 2018, that TPS would be terminated for Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador. These decisions affect 5,300 Nicaraguans, 59,000 Haitians and about 250,000 Salvadorans, with potentially more terminations coming in the future, such as for Hondurans and others.
“Haitians and Salvadorans, who are the majority of TPS workers at Harvard, also have, respectively, 27,000 and 195,000 children who were born in the United States. Since the devastating earthquakes in 2001 in El Salvador and 2010 in Haiti, these hard-working immigrants, many who arrived here eight to 17 or more years ago as kids, have become very connected in their local communities. Most Salvadorans have been here much longer, for 20 or more years since fleeing the civil war, and we all should remember America’s role in this conflict.
“The Boston area is a center of the Salvadoran and Haitian communities, and we Harvard workers are also part of the university community. Between feeding Harvard students and cleaning Harvard offices, we are the first to greet the students at breakfast and the last to see departing researchers each evening. Like many from Haiti and El Salvador across the country, we cook, clean and provide for [U.S.] American children that dream of more opportunity than we had back home. We also actively contribute to the economy: we buy cars and take on mortgages, start businesses and pay into Social Security.
“However, opportunity is not our only concern. We will be targeted for violence and could even be killed if we return to what, for many of us, are unfamiliar countries. We are Americans who deserve permanent residency here in the United States.”
The letter, signed by more than 300 union members, students, student groups and faculty, asks that Faust hold a press conference supporting the transition to permanent residency for TPS workers; write a letter to Congress, the Senate and U.S. president advocating permanent residency; and encourage other college presidents to take these same steps.
At the end of the letter are photos and short bios of seven workers and their families, which detail the political, social, economic and emotional anguish and hardship that canceling TPS will have on them. Put together by TPS workers on the coalition committee, this narrative is designed to confront Faust with the realities of workers’ lives. The narrative will be used as an outreach tool to workers and their unions at other universities and will also
provide information for unions rallying and lobbying in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5.
The Harvard TPS Coalition is deliberately and methodically talking with other union members on campus to educate them that an attack on TPS workers is an attack on the unions; that the same forces pushing “right to work” legislation, which will demolish unions, are the same forces pushing attacks on immigrant workers.
The Harvard TPS Coalition has vowed to continue to build on campus, join allies on other campuses and unite with other unions to stop these vicious attacks on immigrant members, on all immigrant workers and on the existence of unions.
Photo: UNITE HERE Local 26