March for TPS: Three Voices from the Crowd
On February 12, 2019 hundreds of TPS holders from across the country marched from the White House to the Russell Senate office and met with members of Congress to urge them to pass legislation to allow TPS recipients many who have lived in the US for decades the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. These are three stories of people who participated.
My Name is Sumi Hora. I currently live in Somerville, Massachusetts. Originally, I am from Kathmandu, Nepal. Twelve Years ago, I moved to the US when I was eighteen, I moved here to pursue a Psychology Degree from Salem State University. It was a truly difficult decision to move away from my family, but I knew that in order to achieve my dreams, the United States was where I needed to be. Upon arriving, I was lucky enough to be able to move in with my aunt who lives in Somerville, MA. I Immediately fell in love with the values and inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are granted to every citizen. Every day that I have been here, I have been so thankful for. The United States has provided opportunities to me that no other country could have.
Upon graduating, I was able to fulfill a passion of mine to attain a job as a Certified Nurse Assistant. As many Nepali people do with themselves, I like to consider myself a very honest, ambitious, hard-working person. Currently, I have 2 jobs. In 2019 Summer, I am planning to go back to School to pursue a Masters degree in Psychology and fulfill a lifelong dream of mine to help people.
In 2015, Kathmandu Nepal, our countries capital and my home town hit by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake which toppled buildings, created avalanches and set into motion landslides in the nearby Himalayan Mountains. This humanitarian disaster changed the face of our beautiful country, killing nearly 9,000 innocent people, injuring 22,000 and destroying close to 750,000 home across the country. I personally had relatives and close friends who died during the earthquake and its aftermath. I lost my grandmother and our family home. I miss my grandmother every day because she was my role model.
I have been lucky enough to personally meet and speak many of these displaced families who love this country just as much as I do. As resilient as the Nepali people are, our country still has not recovered from this natural Disaster. Many people who are currently living in Nepal still have not been able to return back to their homes after the earthquake. Our honest belief is that if Nepal is still struggling with getting its current population back into safe homes and communities, then it is extremely unlikely that they would be able to safely integrate all of the TPS community that is here in the U.S.
With the TPS status, thousands of Nepali nationals living in the U.S. have been able to breathe a sigh of relief, and focus on supporting their families back home as they build their homes and their lives back up after the earthquake. Personally, I am able to afford to go to graduate school and support my family. Likewise, there are so many families they have kids who are born and raised here who have build their life here. By providing the extension to TPS, people like me would be able to complete school. More than a million children will not lose their parents and don't have to live in constant fear.
Monday morning (February 11, 2019) we participated in a day of workshops and training hosted by the National TPS Alliance. It was a warm welcoming space that brought TPS holders and their allies together to plan for the national day of action. We learned about the different TPS communities across the country, their countries and why their countries of origin are unsafe to return. The union hall was buzzing with activities; youth groups talking about the challenges of their TPS parents. Folks creating banners with colorful birds representing each of the affected countries. Bands teaching songs, learning chants in multiple languages, finalizing plans for march and preparing attendees for the stormy weather.
I traveled with fellow advocate Irma Flores, a TPS holder who has lived and raised her kids Massachusetts for the past 19 years. We attended an evening training sponsored by Working Families United. We talked about messaging and the logistics of lobbying. What roles we would take in the meeting,how to frame a personal narrative and finishing with the hard ask. Irma does a lot of advocacy work in the undocumented community in her work with the city of Somerville. While role playing it struck her; this time she would be advocating for her own family for her right to stay in the country she calls home.
Tuesday morning was a wet and cold. We were partnered with members of the IUPAT (the International Painters Union) and made a plan to visit the Massachusetts delegation. We highlighted both Irma personal narrative and the current skilled labor shortage and the concern of losing documented workers in large numbers because of the removal of TPS programs. Another concern our union brothers highlighted; TPS holders would be pushed into the shadows with other undocumented workers. Where unscrupulous contractors use intimidation tactics and wage theft to exploit and manipulate workers. We traveled through the maze of offices along capitol hill. We saw Congresswoman Pressley and Trahan staff and Congressman Kennedy and Moulton offices. We visited the Senate offices in the afternoon.
In the afternoon we visited the Senate offices, fortuitously we ran into Senator Markey in front of building. He stopped and greeted us with a broad open smile. The Senator listened intently and assured us he fully supported our advocacy and all immigrants. We visited 9 offices in total sharing our hope that the budget would be settled and congress could get to work submitting legislation to create a pathway to permanency for TPS holders and dreamers.
Late Monday (February 11, 2019) night I boarded bus #7 in Liberty Plaza in East Boston to join the Massachusetts Comité TPS (Temporary Protected Status) to join hundreds of people from Massachusetts on 11 buses to march in Washington DC and to lobby Congress to pass legislation to allow the approximately 300,000 people from 13 countries that have been living and working in the US some for decades the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. On our bus there were people from El Salvador, people from Nepal and people from Haiti some impacted directly and other concerned community members, church leaders, and elders. The ride to DC was long, dark, and rainy and filled with song. Outside of DC in Maryland all 11 buses stopped briefly at a bakery and I got the first glimpse of the magnitude of the event. Hundreds of marchers wearing blue caps from a dozen countries grabbed some coffee, brushed their teeth, and stretched. Next stop was the White House where we joined hundreds of others from across the eastern seaboard and beyond. The rainy street was filled with the beautiful sounds of all the different languages and chants and music and colors, flags, and banners permeated the dark rainy weather. The mood was both joyful and serious. After a rally in the pouring rain with Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, people lined up and a sea of people marched to the Capitol stopping briefly at the Trump International Hotel for the children of TPS holders to hold a banner of a wall with barbed wire and chanted ‘Trump escucha! Estamos en la lucha!’ As we marched through the streets of DC we were joined by groups with butterfly banners and horns.
After a rally at the Russell Senate building I joined a group of people from Nepal to meet with my Congressional representative Katherine Clark. She listened to the members of the Nepalese community from our district tell stories of their plight. Trump chose to end protections for Nepal, so people are facing a deadline of June 24, 2019 when they lose their status. This is turn means they will be forced to leave their homes, jobs and schools. Mothers told Clarke about their American born children and their fears of returning to Nepal where this is nothing for them, no jobs, no home, and the possibility of being trafficked as young women. Next our group traveled through many tunnels and corridors to Congressman Kennedy’s office where he came out to pose for a quick photo and his constituents from Haiti told their stories. One man from Haiti faces losing his job, his home, four US born children, wife, and community. He stood with members of his church and elders from his community. People kept reminding their representatives that this is so urgent and we pay our taxes and work. We will be separated from our children. I want to return to my country but everything is gone. There’s nothing left for me there. We have only a few months left.
People with TPS status renew their paperwork every 18 months and many have been living and working in the US for decades. This is their home. The Trump administration abruptly and arbitrarily ended this program in 2018 leaving families in fear and in limbo as court cases blocking this decision work their way through the federal court system and they await action in Congress. People facing losing TPS are facing impossible choices when and if they lose their status return home with their US citizen children to a country that’s no longer safe and where they have nothing left, leave their citizen children alone in the US, or try to stay as undocumented. More than a million children face the possibility of losing one or two parents when this program ends. They live in constant fear. We’ve seen this before, when ordinary people lose their children, homes, livelihoods when papers are suddenly revoked. That’s the whole basis of international human rights laws and to allow this to happen to one group of people is an injustice to all. If as a community those of us not impacted yet watch silently while our neighbors lives are destroyed capriciously by our own government who are we and who will stand for us when it’s our turn?
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The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him. —Nuremburg Principles: Principle I