Statement of Adhikaar: Committee to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary Hearing on “Protecting Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status Recipients”

Adhikaar is the only women-led worker and community center organizing the Nepali-speaking community on workers rights, immigrants rights and access to healthcare. Adhikaar has worked on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) since 2015 when we originally campaigned for Nepal’s designation. As the lead organization working to protect and advocate for Nepali TPS holders, we write this for the nearly 15,000 Nepali TPS holders in almost every state throughout the country. As one of the 13 countries with TPS or Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), our members with TPS are in a perilous situation as their status will run out on June 24 of this year, not even three months away, following the Trump Administration’s decision to eliminate TPS for Nepal last April. Liberia and Nepal are the next countries whose TPS/DED will expire.

If TPS runs out for TPS holder from Nepal on June 24th without any legislative or legal solution, it will cause irreparable harm to TPS holders and their surrounding communities. TPS holders’ status is tied to work permits, health insurance, business/home/car ownership, and basic protections that undocumented members of our society are unable to access. Many Nepali TPS holders have been in the U.S. for decades, their homes are in every state represented in this committee and throughout this country.  

Adhikaar has supported over 1,500 TPS recipients throughout the U.S. A vast majority of them consider the U.S. home. The Chettri family from Dallas, Texas has lived in the U.S. for seventeen years. The husband, Suresh Chhetri, came to the U.S. 17 years ago and finished his Associates, Bachelor, and two Masters degrees from Texas colleges. They have a five year old daughter who is a U.S. citizen and knows nothing but  Texas as her home. The family has two cars, owns a small business, and pays their taxes. They contribute to the economy and are waiting on permanent residency to buy a home to grow their family in the great state of Texas. Another family from Minnesota, Sumnima Thapa and her citizen child who is 10, are two of the plaintiffs in the  Bhattarai vs Nielson litigation (1). The Chettri’s and Thapa’s are two of hundreds of families with TPS from Nepal whose lives are on the line.

Adhikaar’s office is located in Queens, NY where a majority of the estimated 2,577 TPS holders in New York are based. A majority of our members are domestic workers, nail salon workers, drivers, restaurant workers and others who work in informal economies throughout the tri-state area. TPS holders we organize throughout the country span from the IT industry in high tech jobs to owners of small business and students who are working in “gig” economies to fulfill their dreams. TPS designation allows people to apply for work permits but the authorization is tied to status. As the deadline looms and the future status is uncertain, Adhikaar members have reported that they’ve been discriminated against, not able to find good jobs, or have even been threatened by employers that they will lose their job. Our domestic worker members are even more vulnerable, working in unique conditions in private homes of employers   not traditionally accessible through employer engagement efforts. A majority of TPS holders have regularly retained employment, but at times were unable to maintain jobs due to their temporary status, and those in informal economies may not be able to verify employment.

Ramba Regmi came to the U.S. 18 years ago and worked at nail salons for 17 years. After receiving TPS, she opened a small nail salon in New York and is a proud entrepreneur. Ramba calls our office every week to get updates as she can’t sleep at night thinking about what will happen to her, her business and livelihood. TPS holders who own small businesses, especially women and minority-led businesses, have reached out to us as they are in a difficult situation where they are forced to decide if they should sell their business with their TPS running out. These small business owners are also extremely vulnerable to coercion and fraud, as they are in desperate situations looking to find some way out while still maintaining their livelihoods. Permanent residency would allow business owners to keep their small business and help them thrive, contributing vastly to their local economies.

TPS holders from Nepal are diverse. Some of have non-violent convictions as a result of either injustice faced within the criminal justice system or mistakes they have already paid for. One of our member leaders, Amod Sharma (pseudonym), has lived in the U.S. for 29 years and has grown his family in the U.S. Ten years ago he was involved in an  incident on the highway and was booked for “criminal mischief,” which is a misdemeanor, though the charges were dropped to disorderly conduct with probation. Since then he has been living in fear that he may be targeted by ICE. When we received  TPS, his life became more secure, he was able to go back to finish his Master’s degree from CUNY and get advance parole to visit Nepal. Last year he visited Nepal and realized that Nepal is a foreign land to him – it is not his home, New York is. People like Amod and others with convictions deserve the same pathway to permanent residency as other TPS/DED holders.  

We urge the House Judiciary Committee to ensure all TPS and DED holders be covered by any DREAM/TPS legislation, including the nearly 15,000 TPS holders from Nepal who have qualified for TPS since the massive and devastating 2015 Gorkha Earthquake. We believe Nepal should have been designated for TPS as Nepal is still recovering from the earthquake (2), however, now we are faced with potential forced deportation of nearly 15,000 people who could lose status on June 24, 2019. The Committee must ensure that clean TPS/DED and DREAM legislation creates a path to permanent residency without increased spending for immigration enforcement or a border wall.

  1. Bhattarai vs Nielson:

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