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'We Will Be That Lantern on the Shore': Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley Rally With TPS Holders Outside Trump White House

Demonstration follows federal suit charging administration's effort to end protected status motivated by 'racial animus' of president

Pressley, AOC

Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) joined Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders from Nepal and Honduras for a rally outside the White House on Tuesday morning. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Immigrant rights advocates and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders from Nepal and Honduras—joined by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.)—rallied outside the White House on Tuesday morning to protest the Trump administration's moves to revoke protected status from people residing in the United States due to dangerous conditions in their home countries.

Critics charge that the ongoing efforts to end TPS are motivated by President Donald Trump's racism against "non-white, non-European immigrants." The TPS holders, activists, and lawmakers who turned out for the March for TPS Justice despite the winter weather called on Congress to "take action to #SaveTPS and create permanent protections that give residency to immigrant youth and TPS holders."

"We will be that lantern on the shore. We will be here in case of humanitarian disaster. We will be here in case of natural disaster, war, et cetera. We are a nation that turns peril into promise. We are a nation that builds from many, and we have to protect our basic character as a nation to be that," Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd. "We are here to make sure that all TPS recipients become permanent members of the United States of America."

Pressley, for her part, said: "You are the true patriots, you are the true Americans, and we are not out here demanding charity—we are demanding what you have earned!"

The demonstration that kicked off at the White House at 9am local time followed the filing of a class-action lawsuit (pdf) on Monday. The suit outlines the president's racist push to end protections for Nepali and Honduran TPS holders, which could force the deportation of more than 100,000 people.

"The Trump administration's plan to end TPS for Honduras and Nepal must be stopped before it causes immeasurable harm to TPS holders, their families, and their communities," Jenny Zhao, staff attorney at Advancing Justice–Asian Law Caucus, warned in a statement.

"With TPS I have been able to build a new life here with my family and I have a found a stable job... I wish to continue working to support this country, and also continue supporting the rebuilding of Nepal, which is still recovering from the earthquake."
—Keshav Raj Bhattarai, Nepali TPS holder

Plaintiff Keshav Raj Bhattarai, a Nepali TPS holder and member of the rights group Adhikaar, declared: "I am proud to be a part of this lawsuit, for all the other Nepali TPS holders like me. With TPS I have been able to build a new life here with my family and I have a found a stable job."

"When I see so many people's lives at risk in losing TPS, I am troubled to see that this country would harm its hardworking workers and people," Bhattarais added. "I wish to continue working to support this country, and also continue supporting the rebuilding of Nepal, which is still recovering from the earthquake."

Many have argued that maintaining TPS for Nepalis impacted by the devastating 2015 earthquake is "a moral necessity," and warned that returning Hondurans to a nation destabilized in part by U.S. actions would mean that "families, including children who are U.S. citizens, could risk threats, kidnapping, gender-based violence, or even death."

The suit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California—by a coalition of legal advocacy groups, on behalf of six adults with TPS and two U.S. citizen children of TPS holders—aims to ensure the continued safety of all people from those countries currently residing in the U.S. through the program.

The filing follows an "incredible" court victory in October, when a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the administration from ending protections for more than 300,000 TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan—agreeing with plaintiffs' attorneys that "not only is there direct evidence of animus, but there is also circumstantial evidence of race being a motivating factor" for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under Trump, refusing to renew protections.

"The Trump administration is illegally trying to gut the humanitarian TPS program, but TPS holders are fighting back," concluded Jessica Bansal, co-legal director of National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). "They have already won a temporary reprieve for hundreds of thousands of TPS holders. With [Monday's] filing, they seek to protect tens of thousands more."

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