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:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to them that they have served their term, that their penalty is paid, that they have received from the Lord's hand double for all their sins.
A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
Why do Hondurans need TPS:
Since 1998 when Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras, tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants have lived and worked in the US.
Though more than 100,000 Hondurans were given TPS in 1999, many have chosen to return and 57,000 remain with the TPS status, though they were given only a six month extension, which end on July 5, 2018.
According to Human Rights Watch, Honduras still have many challenging issues which makes returning very difficult for Hondurans.
These challenges include:
- Rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses remain the norm in Honduras. Despite a downward trend in recent years, the murder rate is among the highest in the world.
- Journalists, peasant activists, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals are among those most vulnerable to violence. Berta Cáceres, a prominent environmental and indigenous-rights activist, was killed in March 2016. Despite numerous threats on her life, police had failed to investigate threats on her life.
- Journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders suffer threats, attacks, and killings. Twenty-one journalists were murdered from 2014 through May 2016, according to the National Human Rights Commission. Almost all killings of journalists go unpunished.
- Fear of gang violence drives hundreds of children every year to leave the country and head north, often unaccompanied. According to a report by UNICEF, the number of child homicides rose from 434 in 2014 to 570 in 2015.
TPS was created to provide protection to those in the United States when it is unsafe for their return home – precisely the conditions Honduras faces.
Second Scripture Reading:
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servants.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who fear God from generation to generation.
God has shown strength; God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped Israel, in remembrance of God’s mercy, according to the promise God has made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
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 Hondurans for the full 18 months.