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Interfaith Vigil Brings Hundreds to White House in Support of TPS

Photo: Kathryn Johnson / AFSC

Interfaith Vigil Brings Hundreds to White House in Support of TPS

Faith leaders say Temporary Protected Status must be saved

WASHINGTON, DC (October 23, 2017) On Tuesday October 24, hundreds will gather at noon at the White House for an interfaith vigil and the launch of a hunger strike in support of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Participants are asking the Trump administration to extend TPS, and are asking congress for a legislative solution that would create a pathway to permanent status for TPS holders.

“Through its longstanding litigation and organizing work with hundreds of clients across the country with TPS, AFSC has seen firsthand how their dreams for a better life have taken root but also how more recent fears of deportation have unsettled their daily lives," said Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee. "As people of faith and people of conscience, we are called to come together to protect each other, to stand up with those facing persecution, and to stand between them and forces that would do them harm, including this government."

TPS is a provision under which the government grants protection from deportation to people from certain countries afflicted by natural disasters, war, or other dangerous conditions. It has recently come under threat from the Trump administration. Faith leaders from many traditions are mobilizing to pressure the administration to extend TPS and Congress to create a permanent solution for TPS holders.

"Our faith communities follow God’s word to 'welcome the sojourner,' and we have done this for decades," said Rev. Dr. Philius Nicolas, Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men, in Brooklyn, N.Y. "Those now in the U.S. who have received Temporary Protected Status did not come here because they desired to leave their homeland, but rather left because of great disasters, poverty, and dangers of disease that still continue. To separate families to make them return to such conditions would be against the values of our faith."

Speakers at the vigil include Rev. Dr. Philius Nicolas, founder and pastor of Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men; Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary for the American Friends Service Committee; Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea, Director, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries; Celina Benitez, Member of Mt. Rainier, MD City Counsel; TPS recipients, and faith leaders. They will be joined by delegations from across the country. There will also be performances by the Salvadoran hip hop group Reyes del Bajo Mundo and Salvadoran singer-songwriter Lilo Gonzalez.

Many who are participating in the vigil are themselves TPS holders, and will speak to the impact TPS has had on their own lives. "We left El Salvador because of the natural disaster, war and persecution over 20 years ago," said Luiz Munoz, a TPS recipient living in Red Bank, NJ. "We got TPS status in 2001 and benefited so much. We were able to work. My children were able to go to school. If TPS is terminated and we have to return to El Salvador, we will not be able to survive because of the county conditions. My children don't know another country other than the U.S. Here is our home."

Vigil organizers will dramatize the plight of TPS recipients with 10 boots, to represent each of the 10 countries where TPS recipients are from and the Trump Administration’s threat to boot them out of the U.S. Faith leaders will transform the boots into flower planters, to represent the roots that people have here, and the benefits of creating communities where everyone can flourish.

“TPS was the result of long, massive organizing and education effort by immigrants and allies across the country,” said Kathryn Johnson, Policy Impact Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee. “We’re mobilizing once again to call on the administration to extend TPS for recipients from all 10 countries currently protected by the program, and calling on congress to pass legislation that provides TPS holders with permanent residency in the U.S.”

The vigil is organized by the American Friends Service Committee, Church World Service, and Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, and is part of the Lobby Days for TPS that are being organized by the National TPS Alliance. It will be preceded by a press conference at 11:15  where TPS holders and their allies will denounce the cancellation of TPS programs and discuss specific legislative proposals and future actions.

In case of rain, the service and press conference will be held at NY Ave Presbyterian Church at 1313 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.