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:
This is what the Lord says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
This is what the Lord says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord.
“They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord.
Why is TPS being threatened:
In addition to Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador, other countries currently receiving TP include Somalia, South Sudan, Nepal, Syria, and Yemen. Sudan and Nicaragua recently had their TPS status removed, forcing over 6,000 people to uproot their lives and return to a country where their future is still largely unsure.
Why are some people and organizations lobbying to end Temporary Protective Status program? There are 3 well-funded organizations working to oppose TPS and all kinds of immigration. They are the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and Numbers USA. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that, FAIR, CIS and Numbers USA are all part of a network of restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the ‘puppeteer’ of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots who believes that to maintain American culture, "a European-American majority" is required.
Racism lies at the root of the efforts to stop TPS and all forms of immigration, particularly from countries where there are people of color.
The election of donald trump has coalesced with a spike in hate crimes, with the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting that 37% of recent hate crimes reported were linked directly to trump. Recent hate attacks have occurred against a backdrop of deepening interethnic tensions in the United States. People of different faith communities are increasingly choosing to live, worship, and work in separate spaces, neighborhoods, and regions. Interaction and social exposure across religious and cultural lines is increasingly rare, which feeds suspicion and a lack of empathy.
But Advent reminds us we are a people whose hope lies in a God who not only empathizes with the plight of immigrants and refugees, but even more, who became incarnated in the life of a refugee baby to Egypt, fleeing violence from his home country. Our calling this Advent is to remember this and to live faithfully by seeking justice for our immigrant sisters and brothers.
Second Scripture Reading:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
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 uphold temporary protective status for all who hold it.