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Immigrants make “Journey 4 Justice” to save TPS

News & Commentary  |  By Peniel Ibe, Sep 28, 2018
Photo: AFSC

Hear stories from some of the people traveling across the country to protect this life-saving program. 

After six weeks of traveling across the United States, the TPS Journey 4 Justice bus arrived in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 25. The bus carried more than 50 immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), their family members, and other civil rights leaders who are crossing the country over 12 weeks to mobilize communities to protect the life-saving immigration program

TPS allows foreign nationals to remain in the U.S. if war, natural disaster, or some other catastrophe in their country of origin prevents their safe return. Most TPS holders have lived in the U.S. for years, often decades, and have become vital parts of our communities.  

But over the past year, the Trump administration has ended TPS for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Nicaragua, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Haiti, Nepal, El Salvador, and Honduras, putting them at risk for deportation.   

The TPS Journey for Justice comes amid numerous efforts across the country to protect the rights of the TPS community and push back against Trump’s racist agenda. The urgency to save this vital program is growing, as TPS is set to expire for TPS holders from Sudan on Nov. 2 – with deadlines for other countries looming in the year ahead.

With an estimated 44 stops in 12 weeks, the Journey 4 Justice hopes to activate local communities and connect them to the ongoing national campaign to demand legal permanent residency and protections for TPS families and communities. Through townhalls, community forums, parades, assemblies, rallies and press conferences, the journey aims to strengthen, unify, and elevate the voices of TPS holders.  

The Journey 4 Justice was initiated by the National TPS Alliance, which was formed in 2017 and is led by TPS holders. Its membership now includes more than 1,000 TPS holders from across the U.S. and is supported by more than 10 nonprofit organizations (including AFSC), groups, and unions. 

As the Trump administration continues to use fearmongering and hateful rhetoric again immigrants, the TPS Journey for Justice is a testament to the tenacity and strength of TPS holders, who continue to demonstrate courage, determination, and ownership of their own narrative. 

Here are some snapshots from their journey so far: 

 

The Journey 4 Justice Bus began in Los Angeles, California and moved through Arizona, Nevada Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama before arriving in Washington, D.C. 

Throughout the tour, TPS holders shared their stories at multiple events and venues and called on political leaders to protect TPS.   

Elba and Jamileth

Elba Pereiram, who is originally from El Salvador, is a community leader who works with AFSC’s Newark Immigrant Rights Program. She and her daughter Jamileth, a U.S. citizen, took part in the Journey. Elba said of her experience: “Friends like you can see how we are going in the freedom bus. Nobody told us it would be easy nor impossible, with the help of God we will achieve permanent residency.”

Umaine and Jeanine

Umaine Louis and Jeanine Louis are part of the TPS committee in Miami, which is supported by AFSC's American Friends Immigrants Services (AFIS). They were the first Haitian TPS holders on the Journey for Justice. 

After riding the bus for the entire first six weeks of the tour, they’re taking a brief hiatus at home in Florida with their families before rejoining the Journey for Justice on the East Coast. “The journey was not an easy one, but we did it,” Umaine said.    

Building solidarity across movements

This grassroots-led initiative has moved many members of the immigrant community who are resisting other attacks on their community

Intersectional and inclusive organizing is key to resisting the divisive messaging among communities. By advocating for each other’s rights and employing our strength in numbers, we can build solidarity across our movements to advance justice and freedom for all. The TPS journey for justice is a source of strength not just for TPS holders and the TPS community but the immigrant community at large. 

During a stop in Wichita, Kansas members of the TPS caravan went to the office of the state’s anti-immigrant governor to denounce the racist, xenophobic messaging from Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Their message to him? “We are not afraid of you.” 

Visiting Araceli in sanctuary

Araceli Velasquez (pictured above) and her husband, Jorge, were deeply moved by the caravan. Araceli has been in sanctuary for over a year in Colorado, and Jorge is a TPS holder, and together they have two U.S. citizen children. 

As they welcomed the caravan alongside the staff and supporters of AFSC’s Colorado Immigrant Rights Program, Araceli reflected on the solidarity she felt.

She said, “It gave me strength to keep fighting because it's not just me that is impacted and it's not just me that is fighting and sacrificing. I saw mothers who came with their children on the caravan, who left their jobs and school to fight, and it gives me the strength to continue doing my part. Jorge went to his job and told his employer ‘I’m sorry. I'm going to leave because they’re coming from another state fighting for us.’  

“When the caravan arrives in Washington, I feel I have their commitment that they will talk about my case and Jorge's. And I feel that they took with them on their journey the strength of the sacrifice myself and my children have made. I also feel good that they recognized my strength of having survived these 13 months in sanctuary.” 

How can you support the caravan?  

1) The East Coast portion of the journey will launch in Boston on Oct. TBD.  Follow the TPS Journey for Justice on social media

2) We’re calling on Congress to enact a permanent solution that grants lawful permanent residency and a roadmap to citizenship for all TPS recipients and the millions of other immigrants in the country. 

Contact your members of Congress by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or emailing them today.  Urge them to: 

Pass humane immigration policies that would create a roadmap to citizenship for TPS holders. Bills have been introduced in Congress that would protect TPS holders. The American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253) and the SECURE Act (S.2144) bills would provide permanent legal residency and a pathway to citizenship for all TPS holders.  

Learn more about TPS.

About the Author

Peniel is the policy fellow at AFSC. She is interested in international development, humanitarian crisis management and public policy. She is an immigrant from Nigeria who recently relocated to the United States and is advocating for the rights of others like her.

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