Salvadorans at risk of losing immigration status find support in churches

WASHINGTON — When German Fernandez learned last week that the Trump administration plans to end temporary protected status for him and around 200,000 other immigrants from El Salvador, it was a nightmare come true.

“When I saw the news, I could express no words,” he said. “TPS has protected me for 18 years.”

When the program allowing undocumented Salvadoran immigrants to live and work in the United States ends next year, many will be at risk of deportation to a country that is racked by horrific gang violence.

But rather than succumb to despair, many Salvadorans — who are overwhelmingly Christian — are finding hope, support and empowerment in churches that are working with advocacy groups and faith-based coalitions to offer assistance.

Fernandez, who has been sending money he makes in the U.S. back to his family in El Salvador, has found support at St. Matthew’s Parish, an Episcopal church in the Washington suburb of Hyattsville, Md., where about 40 percent of the congregation’s roughly 800 members are Salvadoran TPS holders.

“My faith is important to me, because I am feeling alone,” said Fernandez, who said the support he and his fellow parishioners are getting from the church “is very important.”

He said he’s talked to many friends about the TPS announcement, “and they cried because they knew the reality of what’s going on now.” He and other church members are planning to fly across the country in a few days for a major protest in Sacramento, Calif.

Greater Washington contains one of the largest concentrations of Salvadorans in the country, according to the Pew Research Center. And there is a lot of outrage at St. Matthew’s.

“On Sunday I will preach to the community that this is a sad reality — it’s a disgrace on the part of the U.S. government. It’s absurd, dehumanizing, unconscionable,…

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