Storytelling for Advocacy: A Temporary Protected Status Campaign with East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Based in Berkeley, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant provides legal services, community organizing, and transformative education to support low-income immigrants and people fleeing violence and persecution. VOW is a member of the Amplifying Sanctuary Voices storytelling initiative led by EBSC and has collaborated with EBSC on campaigns to support immigrants and Temporary Protected Status holders. 

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a provisional designation granted to immigrants In the U.S. who cannot return to their home countries due to violence, natural disasters, epidemics, and extraordinary conditions. There are approximately 436,900 people with TPS from 10 different countries- Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Nepal, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti. Over 320,000 of those TPS holders are facing status expirations within the next two years.

In response to the ongoing uncertainty regarding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) renewal, Voice of Witness teamed up with EBSC and their network of immigrant justice partners on an advocacy campaign that would contextualize TPS and amplify the voices of the people directly affected by the threat of its expiration.  

With issues of immigration often presented as a one-dimensional headline and immigrants reduced solely to their economic contributions, VOW and EBSC recognized the need to take a storytelling-rooted approach that would feature the first-person stories of TPS holders from a wide variety of countries and with a diversity of experiences. Through a combination of VOW’s oral history storytelling methodology and EBSC’s organizing and advocacy expertise, the collaboration culminated in a campaign video that shares the voices of TPS holders as integral members of their communities.

Starting last fall, EBSC and CARECEN (Central American Resource Center) helped coordinate connections to TPS holders who were interested in sharing their stories. VOW’s Community Partnership Coordinator Ela Banerjee interviewed many of these narrators using VOW’s ethics-driven oral history methodology, asking them about topics ranging from their journey to the United States to the proudest moments of their lives and what they would leave behind if they were forced to leave the US. After the interviews, VOW collaborated with CARECEN to identify quotes to highlight and interweave the narrators’ stories. Amplifying Sanctuary Voices team member Nerine Ortiz Pon produced the video using audio from the interviews and footage from TPS solidarity demonstrations. EBSC and CARECEN provided translations as needed and collaborated with VOW in tailoring the storytelling model for an advocacy campaign.

In contrast to the long-form oral history format that VOW implements for our human rights book series, this project required a distinct approach to creating compelling stories with only a few short excerpts from each narrator. The resulting messages, stories, and video provide effective strategic campaign tools that can be used for months to come.

If I was to be able to talk to a Congressperson, I would say that, as a TPS holder, I have learned to love this country and I have lived here longer than I have lived in my birth country, Haiti.

Rose, TPS holder from Haiti, Nurse

Right now, owning a small restaurant, you feel that you are part of the neighborhood because it’s a family restaurant. I feel part of that neighborhood. I feel part of this country.

Selvin, TPS holder from Honduras, Restaurant Owner

While the Trump administration sought to end TPS protections, the transition into the Biden administration has given immigrants, asylum seekers, and allies some hope that the American Dream and Promise Act—which was just passed in the Housewill pave a path to permanent citizenship. Now, we need to advocate to pass this bill as well as the SECURE Act in the Senate.

Take action today!

Share this video widely and call your senators to urge them to pass The American Dream and Promise Act and the SECURE Act. Let them know you are a constituent and that you support legislation to guarantee a path to permanent residency for all TPS holders. Find your elected officials here: 

Learn more about Voice of Witness community partnerships here and contact Ela Banerjee to get involved:

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