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As Temporary Protected Status Shifts, One Activist Deals With Uncertainty

On June 7, 2021, a Supreme Court ruling found that many TPS holders are ineligible to apply for permanent residency.

César Magaña Linares is a committed immigration activist, whether he's attending rallies or in his law school classes studying to become an immigration lawyer.

His personal experiences have something to do with that. César came to the U.S. from El Salvador with his family when he was just two years old. He is a temporary protected status, or TPS, holder.

Though César has always committed himself to immigration advocacy work for others — everything changed for him in January 2018.

He got a breaking news alert on his phone: the Trump administration would be ending TPS.

"When I first read about the news, it was a bit of a fight-flight-freeze response. I didn't even know what to think," César says. "Do I think about the possibility of not being able to stay in this country?"

Creighton Law student and activist César Magaña Linares in Fremont, Neb., in 2021.
/ Michael Zamora
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Creighton Law student and activist César Magaña Linares in Fremont, Neb., in 2021.

When I first read about the news, it was a bit of a fight- flight-freeze response. I didn't even know what to think. Do I think about the possibility of not being able to stay in this country?

When César heard this news, he had less than two years to figure out what to do before he could be deported.

In conversation with his mentor and former speech coach, Cameron Logsdon, César shares how his work around immigration advocacy impacts his personhood, as well as how he deals with burnout.

"What I have found to help me cope [with uncertainty over immigration issues] is reminding myself that I come from a country that ... is super rich and something greater than just immigration papers," César says.

César Magaña Linares with his mother.
/ César Magaña Linares
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César Magaña Linares with his first grade teacher.

In an extended version of this episode on Code Switch, César also discusses the long history of Salvadoran immigration activists who came before him with Arely Zimmerman, an Assistant Professor in Chicano Latino Studies at Pomona College. These activists helped bring temporary protected status to fruition in the first place.

"Even though I want to do serious work, I hope I never become a serious person, and that I limit whatever seriousness I carry with myself to something that can actually help people," César says.

This story is part of the Where We Come From series, featuring stories from immigrant communities of color across generations, in honor of Immigrant Heritage Month. Find more stories here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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