General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens joined a press conference Nov. 21, 2017 sponsored by America’s Voice In addition, Dr. Philius Nicolas, pastor of the Disciples Evangelical Crusade Fishers of Men congregation, a predominately Haitian Disciple congregation in Brooklyn, NY, comments on the effect of the withdrawal on his congregants. Pastor Gabrielle Montillus of the Haitian Pentecostal Church in Salisbury, MD, offers perspective as well. A full press release follows these comments. For more information about Refugee and Immigration Ministries, go to the Disciples Home Missions website.
General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens
“My soul is saddened, in partnership with our Haitian neighbors throughout the U.S., at the administration’s distressing decision to end Temporary Protective Status for the nearly 60,000 Haitians who have been enabled to legally work, pay taxes, support their families in the U.S., and send remittances that benefit their homeland under the status.
“In this season when Americans gather at the Table, and as the leader of a movement that prioritizes the welcome of all at the Table of Christ, I am deeply aware of how Haitians have long led vibrant ministries coast to coast in New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Indiana, Maryland, Connecticut, and elsewhere. In each location, numerous members hold TPS status, and in every one, the work of Haitians in healthcare, service, production, business, and professional roles has demonstrated daily the values that TPS has helped Haitians “bring to the table” for all our communities.
“Any policy which removes legal status from persons who are contributing economically, which threatens to separate Haitian parents from their nearly 27,000 U.S. born children, and which eliminates safeguards from return to a nation yet unable to offer adequate re-integration, is a backward step that turns us from God’s call to “maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (Psalms 82:3). Removing TPS for Haitians runs counter to the investments which Haitians with TPS continue to make to our nation, to our churches, and to their homeland. And, it hinders the progress of our long term goal of promoting stable recovery for Haiti which, as yet, remains incomplete due to food, health, housing, and infrastructure insecurities since the Haiti earthquake of 2010, which were exacerbated further by the effects of Hurricanes Matthew, Irma, and Maria in the past year.
“In response, we urge the administration to re-consider the elimination of Haitian TPS, and to instead renew and extend TPS. At the same time, we urge the U.S. to maintain commitment to promoting the food, housing, and health security that are needed in Haiti before removing TPS. Likewise, we call upon Congress to “open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9) by seeking a more permanent legislative solution to protect our Haitian neighbors and other TPS recipients.”
Dr. Philius Nicolas
“Our congregation and community are greatly disappointed in the announcement last night from the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke to end Temporary Protected Status for the nearly 60,000 Haitians in the U.S. who have been able to work, worship, and support their families as TPS recipients. However, we are committed to use this time over the next 18 months before they must depart to continue to fight for a legislative legacy that can permanently protect Haitians and all other TPS populations who contribute so much to the economy and to the churches where they have been longtime neighbors.
In our Brooklyn, NY Disciples congregation, over 50 of our members are TPS recipients. Each one of them will now face great challenges and anxieties about how to keep their families stable and united. For example, one Haitian mother has used the opportunity to legally work under TPS to earn and send monies that pay for the schooling and food for her five children back in Haiti. Since no job was available for her husband in Haiti due to the multiple disasters the country has faced, she has also sent money to support him. Now she wonders what she can do to help her family survive. This is why TPS has been so important—and why we now urge Congress to pass a bill to permanently protect Haitian and other recipients.”
Pastor Gabrielle Montillus
“We have about 10 TPS recipients in our church, who are each working in the different chicken companies. Most of them are about 25 or 30 years old, and some are older. Some of our TPS families have children in the U.S., and some have children in Haiti. Some others (one family of 8, another family of 4, and other single women and men) have gone to Canada in recent months. I am telling our Haitian community members to stay in the U.S., because there are so many problems and dangers and troubles in Haiti, and because we hope we can make a solution here in the U.S. to protect them.
“Haitian people just want to get a status to work, because they really are hard workers, and they really want to keep working. People come to my house to cry all the time. They are worried about their family, and they don’t have money to pay the rent. This really breaks my heart. I want the Christian Church to help us to get the ability to legally work, and then we are ready to help ourselves, and to put the food on the table to help ourselves. We don’t just want a can of spinach, we want the ability to work legally, so we can support our families.”
For Immediate Release Contact: Liz Doherty at [email protected] or (978) 578-3699
November 21, 2017
Religious Leaders Denounce Trump Administration Decision to Terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians
A recording of today’s call is available here.
Washington, D.C. — Religious leaders, advocates and immigrants gathered on a press call today in response to the news that Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Haitians living in the United States has been terminated by the Trump Administration.
Lys Isma, Haitian TPS recipient who came to the United States at nine months old:
“Migration is a fundamental human right: people have the right to food, water, and safe communities just by being born human beings. And where you live should never determine if you live. The decision last night filled me with emotion, but I was not surprised. It is time to call on Congress to act and create a permanent solution.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami:
“Congress has 18 months to do the right thing and provide a path to permanent legal status that includes Haitians and Central Americans who are affected by the Administration’s decisions to rescind TPS. Country conditions there require a permanent protective status here. Our Haitian brothers and sisters have integrated into American society – they are our neighbors. It’s no longer a question of sending them ‘home.’ After so many years in the U.S. they are ‘home.’ Congress should pass legislation recognizing that this serves the common good of all.”
Jeanne Atkinson, Executive Director, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC):
“Termination of TPS for Haiti is another marker in the Administration’s betrayal of the American principles that formed our humanitarian immigration system. We should not return people to places where their lives will be at risk. For Haiti, the decision should have relied on existing conditions, not a guess as to whether things will improve enough for the country to safely reabsorb tens of thousands of people in 18 months…CLINIC’s network has long worked to protect the legal rights of Haitians in the United States. Catholic medical institutions employ many TPS holders from Haiti and Catholic charities support those who need other kinds of assistance. Partners such as Catholic Relief Services have worked diligently in Haiti to improve living conditions. As I witnessed during my recent visit, it is clear is that Haiti is on a slow and fragile path to recovery. The church will continue to stand by Haitians in all of these ways.”
Reverend Noel Andersen, National Grassroots Coordinator, Church World Service:
“No matter what our religious tradition, we all agree that we are called to love our neighbors and welcome immigrants especially when the communities we serve are in need. In fact, we have a moral obligation to respond with passion and kindness. We cannot morally stand by and let those in need go without help.”
Pastor Jean Willeme Thomas, President of the Haitian Coalition of Delmarva, and Pastor of the Federalsburg Haitian Church of the Nazarene in Federalsburg, Maryland:
“As a Haitian faith leader, I believe the Administration’s choice to terminate Haitian TPS is deeply disappointing, and does not reflect the best of American values of protection and welcome. There is great irony that this decision, which will lead to unemployment and family separation, impacts many Haitian meat processing workers in our area at exactly the time when America gathers around tables that enjoy poultry products. This judgment also does not follow the call of our scriptures to ‘Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend orphans.’ (Isaiah 1:17) Instead, the government should remember how immigrants have always helped to build transportation and structures, provide services, grow businesses, and strengthen communities to make America great. We are motivated through today’s pain to turn the voices of all who can into votes for a future where American leadership will truly show liberty and justice for all.”
Reverend Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada:
“My soul is saddened, in partnership with our Haitian neighbors throughout the U.S., at the Administration’s distressing decision to end Temporary Protective Status for the nearly 60,000 Haitians who have been enabled to legally work, pay taxes, support their families in the U.S., and send remittances that benefit their homeland under the status. Haitians lead vibrant and long term ministries coast to coast in New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Indiana, Maryland, Connecticut, and elsewhere. In each location, the work of Haitians in healthcare, service, production, business, and professional roles has demonstrated daily the value of TPS for all our communities. Any policy which removes legal status from persons who are contributing economically, which threatens to separate Haitian parents from their nearly 27,000 U.S. born children, and which eliminates safeguards from return to a nation yet unable to offer adequate reintegration is a backward step that turns us from God’s call to ‘maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute’ (Psalms 82:3). In response, we urge the Administration to redesignate Haitian TPS, and call upon Congress to ‘open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the poor and needy’ (Proverbs 31:9) by seeking a more permanent legislative solution to protect our Haitian neighbors and other TPS recipients.”
Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, Deputy Director and Rabbi in Residence, Jews United For Justice:
“TPS holders, like all of us, are human beings created in the image of God. Like all of us, they deserve to live in safe, dignified conditions in the place they now call home. It is simply heartless to revoke their status, especially before Thanksgiving, a holiday that commemorates the story of people fleeing misery and persecution in their home country arriving in this land. TPS was always designed as a stopgap measure, a Band-Aid solution to larger systemic problems with our broken immigration system. In cancelling this lifesaving program, the Administration has removed that Band-Aid even as the underlying wounds have not yet healed. My Jewish community calls on Congress now to pick up the pieces, create a path to legal permanent status for TPS holders, and get to work immediately on compassionate solutions to our broken immigration system.”
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