This weekend in DC was not a pleasant one. White supremacists marched through the streets in broad daylight with clear protection from the DC police, conspiracy theories were extolled from the steps of the Supreme Court, and thousands flooded our streets flouting the cities' COVID restrictions, placing themselves and the city in grave peril. These members of the Million MAGA march were protesting a widely debunked conspiracy that the election was stolen by the democrats and the “deep state”. The President continues to amplify those claims despite conservatives like Karl Rove and Chris Wallace pointing out the lack of evidence to substantiate his claims. There was another protest this weekend that I wanted to draw attention to though; one that's actually important and I am ashamed to say I had no idea was occurring or the issues that they were advocating for. The group was The National Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Alliance, and the contrast between the MAGA protesters and the TPS Alliance was startling and discouraging.
On Friday the 13th I biked down to BLM Plaza to watch the beginnings of the Million MAGA March, a caravan was due to arrive in DC lead by the members of InfoWars. It was stupid, shocking I know. About 75 MAGA people milled about by the barrier in front of the White House, some speeches were made, and one or two MAGA supporters tore down a few of the signs on the fence dedicated to BLM, and victims of police brutality/violence. There were a few QAnon signs spouting conspiracy theories and the speeches rambled about dead voters and the fictional socialist threats.
On the other side of BLM Plaza another group of about 50 flag waving and banner holding persons were singing in Spanish and English, dancing, and chanting "si se puede", "Yes we can". There was a definite feel of a protest, but it was combined with a celebratory and welcoming mood. People were smiling and friendly, handing out fliers and preparing for speeches as they danced. Their flags and banners were blue with a white gear embellished on them and the letters TPS. My mediocre Spanish proficiency allowed me to get a basic understanding of the protest, but I still lacked a full understanding. Even with a language barrier, the objective of their protest was at least more sensible and clearer than the fiasco I had just left, so I stuck around.
I asked a man next to me if he could explain to me what was going on. He kindly explained to me about Temporary Protected Status and how these persons from countries like El Salvador, Syria, and Somalia can apply for protection in the United States. As best I understand through that conversation and further research, this is not a path to citizenship, although persons may apply to undergo a separate path to citizenship while protected under TPS. Citizens of countries experiencing tremendous upheaval, whether it is natural disasters or war, become eligible for this status at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. One of the listed goals of the TPS is “The ability to adjust to Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status”. The other issue at hand is that the countries may be taken off the TPS list if The Secretary of Homeland Security, the President or the courts deem it to be no longer eligible and any person under protection would lose the legal right to remain in the United States. This is a complicated issue and clearly not one I am well versed in, to my embarrassment and sincere apologies, and I will continue to try and inform myself of the issue. The contrast between the National TPS Alliance and MAGA demonstrations is the focus today.
What disturbed me most was seeing two protests mere hundreds of yards apart over such wildly different issues. On the MAGA side were people born into privilege, citizens of the United States and granted inalienable rights merely for existing and being born here. I can't speak for every member there, but the demographics of MAGA supporters are not typically oppressed peoples. MAGA supporters may shout and moan about how their 2nd Amendment rights are being taken away, or that they are fighting the somehow simultaneously socialist and fascist Democratic party but come on, people. I'm a gun owner and I assure you an extra background check or two is not infringing on my rights. While I don't identify as a socialist, and clearly not as a fascist, I do have some friends that do identify as socialist, and I promise you Joe Biden would not be their choice for a socialist leader; he's barely the choice of the mainstream Democratic Party. Yet the MAGA protesters droned on and lamented their privileged plight, regardless of reality.
On the TPS side I saw men and women who faced real danger and escaped it to build their lives here in America under the protection of Lady Liberty. They face intense scrutiny from the government and must renew their status constantly. They pay taxes and have jobs. Their families are raised here, and they work to become members of our communities. The dangers they face if they are forced to return to their previous homes are severe; I have been to at least one of the countries during my service whose citizens are TPS eligible and it was not a pleasant place. Yet unlike the MAGA protesters, they demonstrated with a spirit of kindness and optimism. They have faced so many dangers and challenges in their lives to get here. And rather than bemoan their situation because of some stupid blog or conspiracy they read on the internet, they work towards progress and togetherness.
Worse yet, when the MAGA protesters dispersed, they walked through the TPS demonstration. They shouted their obscenities and derogatory comments, they waved their flags and mocked these men and women. It was vile and difficult to watch. There will be a plethora of reporting about this past weekend's demonstrations with the Million MAGA March, Proud Boys, and the violence that roamed the streets of DC last night, but the most important protest I saw will be overlooked. The National TPS Alliance demonstrated in truer form to the American spirit than any other group in DC this weekend and some are not even American citizens, at least not yet. I cannot speak to the National TPS Alliance’s motives, their background or them as individuals. My upbringing was more in line with the MAGA protesters then the TPS Alliance and I'm just another ignorant white guy that was biking by. However, the impression their demonstration left on me was profound and I hope to continue to learn more about their work, and maybe one day help them and their advocacy.
To learn more about the National TPS Alliance the link to their organization is here.
The link to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services on TPS ishere.