PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — A 26-year-old Prince George's County man with Temporary Protected Status is fighting to find a permanent solution to the program before it ends.
William Martinez Cruz constructs DC-area buildings as an iron worker. He put on his construction coat to go outside around 6 p.m. Thursday to show WUSA9 his maroon truck.
"It's a little messy. It's been snowing," Martinez Cruz said.
Martinez Cruz also said it's paid off. He is also now happily paying off a mortgage on a condo in Beltsville, Md.
However, his voice shakes when he talks about the day his mother called last year to tell him DHS announced an end to TPS. Martinez Cruz said he tried to be strong over the phone.
As soon as he hung up, "I was like, 'Hey, you know,' just 'Everything's going to be alright' is what I told her. Then, when I hung up the phone, I was just tearing up. It was like reality hit me,'" Martinez Cruz said.
TPS is a designation the Department of Homeland Security secretary can give when nationals are unable to return home safely.
Martinez Cruz’s mother moved his family after two earthquakes reportedly killed more than 900 Salvadorians in 2001.
There are six countries involved. DHS planned to end TPS on Sept. 9, 2019 for El Salvador.
Would he be facing deportation this year? Could he lose it all?
Martinez Cruz has lived in the US under TPS for 18 years.
"Build my whole life here, and go back to a country I'm unfamiliar with?" He said. "It's terrifying."
Activist groups said there are more than 300,000 TPS holders paying into Social Security and paying property taxes in the US.
Martinez Cruz joined the fight and became an activist with the National TPS Alliance.
NTPSA said there are more than 30,000 TPS holders in the greater DC area.
"It's hard. I tell my brother and I tell my mom, 'There's something good coming,'" Martinez Cruz said.
He described having two jobs now: one as a full-time iron worker, and the other as an activist for fellow TPS holders.