By Bill Mefford
Advent is the time for followers of Jesus to wait with eager anticipation for the birth of the Messiah. It was during Jesus’ time when his people were in a time of anxiousness, living fearfully from repressive rule, uncertain of their future, yet constantly casting their hope with God. Today, we have sisters and brothers in the United States who are living in fear and uncertainty as well, suffering from a nonresponsive and repressive rule. Like Jesus’ time, immigrants today are living under state-sponsored terror from an administration that is threatening to rip families apart and deport people, some of whom have lived in the US for decades. For many of our immigrant sisters and brothers, the hope of Advent exists only in so far as they know that there are many others who stand in solidarity with them advocating for justice.
What is Temporary Protective Status:
Temporary Protective Status is designated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State and to qualify one must come from a country that has conditions that “temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or, in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.” Having a TPS designation gives no pathway to citizenship; it simply allows nationals of those countries to live and work in the United States for as long as DHS deems their home countries unsafe to return to.
Currently, more than 300,000 people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti live in the United States with TPS. They have lived in the United States for an average of 19 years and have high rates of employment. TPS families include nearly 275,000 U.S.-born children. TPS holders are long-time members of our congregations and communities.
TPS holders serve no threat to their communities as they must prove that they have lived continuously in the United States and must undergo an extensive criminal and security background check. TPS holders continue to undergo background checks every six to 18 months and pay substantial fees each time.
If Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian workers with TPS were removed from the labor force, the United States would lose $164 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) over the next decade. Furthermore, if TPS holders lost their work authorization, it would result in a $6.9 billion reduction to Social Security and Medicare contributions over a decade.
TPS holders contribute in every way to our communities and congregations.
First Scripture Reading:
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”
Why do Haitians need TPS:
On November 20, Haitian TPS holders learned that they will be deported in 2019 because their temporary protected status had been revoked. While campaigning in 2016 in Florida donald trump told Haitians in Florida in 2016, two months before the election, that he wanted to be their “greatest champion.”
Haiti has asked the United States to continue TPS for the 59,000 Haitians living in the United States because they are not currently able to receive them.
In 2010, an earthquake devastated Haiti, killed 100,000 people, displaced 1 million, and forced nearly 60,000 Haitians to come to the United States. The economy in Haiti is still recovering as 25% of their GDP is based on remittances from Haitians living in the United States. The catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Matthew, a second hurricane, and a cholera outbreak have impeded Haiti’s recovery.
Tens of thousands of homes and schools have been destroyed, as well as agricultural crops and livestock, which have resulted in widespread housing and food insecurity. All of these realities have naturally increased economic instability.
The conditions and lack of appropriate infrastructure mean that returning nearly 60,000 people to this country would mean turning our backs on the vulnerable Haitians whom we pledged to protect. TPS was created to provide protection to those in the United States when it is unsafe for their return home – precisely the conditions Haiti faces.
Second Scripture Reading:
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
As we wait expectantly for the coming of Jesus we do not wait passively. We wait by working for the justice that he will bring into fullness.
This week we ask you to call your Representative and both of your Senators (202-224-3121) and urge them to urge donald trump to reinstate temporary protective status for all Haitians. Tell them to remind donald trump to live up to his campaign promise.