Life Of A Brave: Bosco Senior Benjamin Zepeda Sacrifices Senior Year In Favor Of Activism
by Joshua Hernandez, Editor-in-Chief
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic posing a threat to justice movements and protests everywhere, Bosco Senior Benjamin Zepeda has been involved with the National Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Alliance, which seeks permanent residency in the United States for over 400,000 TPS beneficiaries.
Throughout the past few months, Zepeda has shuffled between states on the east coast, being primarily in Washington, D.C., where he has urged Congress and President Joe Biden to grant permanent residency to TPS beneficiaries nationally.
While it has certainly not been an easy road for Zepeda throughout the past few months, it is for a cause that is much greater than him. Despite being away from home in California and having to miss out on a traditional Senior year experience due to his activism, it is a challenge he has been more than willing to take on headfirst.
“I am still completing my final year of highschool; and in the midst of this global pandemic but I decided to take on this challenge to support the TPS Alliance because I could not just sit back knowing just how crucial this moment is for our struggle,” said Zepeda.
The primary reason why he has been fighting so hard alongside the National TPS Alliance is actually quite simple; Ben himself is a son of TPS holders from El Salvador. While the four years of the Trump Administration posed a serious threat to Ben and his family’s status of residency in the United States, the National TPS Alliance – and Ben – are hopeful that calls for permanent residency will be heard by the new Biden Administration.
“Since 2018, I have been a plaintiff in the Ramos case, a lawsuit which has battled the Trump Administration in the 9th circuit court of appeals for the past four years of the administration’s racist and anti-immigrant attacks,” said Zepeda.
However, the impact of the National TPS Alliance has not just stopped at advocating for permanent residence of TPS beneficiaries; the organization also fronted efforts to get out the vote in the Georgia runoff elections in January. The importance of electing officials who would hopefully be more open to permanent residency was a priority for Zepeda and the National TPS Alliance, who see it as a gateway to greener pastures for current TPS beneficiaries whose status of residency is only temporary.
“We understood just how important it was to use the TPS community’s collective power, which we have built throughout the years to make an impact in this last crucial election season,” said Zepeda.
The dedication of the National TPS Alliance, as well as Zepeda, did not just stop at rhetoric, activism and physical protesting. On March 19th, all members of the National TPS Alliance began a hunger strike while in Washington, D.C. in order to bring more attention to their efforts of obtaining permanent residency statues.
“On March 19th, just one day after the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act – legislation which would grant an immediate pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, DACA and TPS Holders – the TPS Alliance initiated a Hunger Strike led by TPS families in order to put constant pressure on legislators and ensure that immediate action is taken for our families. I have been in solidarity with hunger strikers arriving from many of our committees across the country and working alongside the campaign’s organizers with social media and technical support,” said Zepeda.
On President Biden’s 100th day in office, the National TPS Alliance’s hunger strike ended. Despite not receiving any action from the Biden Administration in its first 100 days, the National TPS Alliance vows to continue fighting for the change they want to see from the administration as well as Congress.
While the National TPS Alliance is optimistic that the new Biden Administration and Democrat-controlled Congress would be more open to granting permanent residency statues, the lack of clarity from the Biden Administration has been frustrating for the Alliance thus far.
“On April 19th, we were expecting a final decision from the Biden administration on our lawsuit. Instead we were given the news that they asked for yet another 60 days to continue investigating the conditions of our countries of origin. What we are asking for isn’t something unreasonable, the conditions of these TPS countries have not changed since they were first designated TPS. Natural disasters, ongoing political crises, and the global COVID-19 pandemic is still creating conditions which have forced many to migrate towards the United States,” said Zepeda.
In the spirit of what it means to be a Bosco man, Ben has been fighting the good fight away from home for a cause that is much bigger than him. While he recognizes the good work he has done on behalf of TPS beneficiaries nationally and alongside the National TPS Alliance, there is also a deep recognition that the work is far from over. As a matter of fact, it might be just beginning.
“After four years of uncertainty of my family’s future, the people in power finally now have all the necessary tools to deliver justice for our communities,” said Zepeda.
The times the world lives in are tumultuous, to say the least. Yet, while no significant or adequate change has been seen by Zepeda and the National TPS Alliance, there is more hope for action in the future. After struggles with the previous administration, but more so after the past grueling few months, change has been hard to come by, but hope may very well be on the horizon for TPS beneficiaries in the United States, thanks in large part to Zepeda’s sacrifices.