Families Torn Apart

American Friends Service Committee

Families Torn Apart

At 19, Jorge Velasquez fled the violence in his country of origin of El Salvador and came to the United States in 1995. Since 2001, he’s been legally able to work and support his wife and three children, thanks to Temporary Protected Status (TPS)—a government program that grants protection from deportation to people from certain countries afflicted by natural disasters, war, or other dangerous conditions. In January 2018, Jorge received shocking news—the Trump Administration cancelled TPS for El Salvador.

There are nearly 200,000 TPS holders like Jorge from El Salvador, who are currently living and building their lives and families in the United States. For the past 17 years, Jorge has created a life for himself in Colorado, away from the violence and insecurity in El Salvador.

The U.S. is his home. “We are contributing to this country,” says Jorge, ”What we want is to work hard and be well. And what we need is to be granted residency.”

Now, Jorge is left with few options. In August of 2019, Jorge’s TPS status— and that of hundreds of thousands of other Salvadorans’—will expire permanently. Without TPS, Jorge can’t legally work and our laws do not allow him a path to apply for residency. His wife is currently in sanctuary, to protect herself from deportation. His extended family—brothers, uncles, and aunts—have also built lives for themselves in Colorado as TPS holders. He has three U.S. citizen children, ages 5 and under. The US is the only country they have ever known.

That’s why AFSC’s Coloradans for Immigrant Rights (CFIR) Program and other programs across the country—in Newark, Miami, Des Moines, and Cambridge—have been working hard on the Residency Now! Campaign, which calls for legal permanent residency and a pathway to citizenship for all TPS recipients. AFSC works directly with TPS holders and their children and provides opportunities for them to share their powerful stories while organizing for change.

Listen and share Jorge’s full story here, and join us as we work to save TPS and advocate for permanent residency.

Kristin Kumpf
Director of Human Migration and Mobility, U.S. Programs
American Friends Service Committee

American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
United States

Keeping Vermont Safer

Dear Putney Friends Meeting,

Earlier today, Governor Phil Scott signed into law a trio of bills that will help keep Vermont safer. We are very grateful to the Governor and to the legislative leaders who recognized the risk that gun violence poses to Vermont and championed these bills.


(photo courtesy of Greg Moschetti)


We are also grateful to you and all of our supporters who have shown up time and again over the past five years, marching, petitioning, donating, testifying, and emailing and calling lawmakers again and again. Some of you have done this work and told your stories while reliving your own traumatic histories, and yet you persisted because you understood the cost of staying silent.

Every phone call, every trip to Montpelier, every difficult conversation, and every testimony paid off today.

Thanks to you, Vermont is now a state where…

  • background checks are required for most private gun sales
  • gun buyers must be 21 years old (with some exceptions)
  • bump stocks are banned
  • large-capacity magazines are prohibited
  • law enforcement can temporarily remove guns from the scene of a domestic assault to keep victims safer
  • courts can issue an order to help protect people deemed to be at extreme risk of harming themselves or others by temporarily restricting access to guns

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the conversation began to change when young people organized and demanded to be heard. Today, their voices and the voices of survivors are taking center stage, as they should, and they are changing this movement. We are privileged to work alongside them and we are grateful for the energy and hopefulness that they bring.

While it is true that the passing of these laws came as a result of passion and dedication, it also has come at the unthinkable cost of far too many lives. I have often said that I wish I could stop doing this work, but I simply can’t as long as so many people are still dying from gun violence and so many more are living as survivors.

I hope, after taking a moment to breathe and appreciate the enormity of what has happened, that you will commit to moving forward with us.

Your donation today will affirm that you will not stop fighting the epidemic of gun violence. We all still have a part to play, here in Vermont and nationally.

Please make a gift to GunSense Vermont so that we can continue to advocate for gun violence prevention stand by those politicians who fought to pass the bills that were signed today.

Thank you for all that you have done to get us here, and thank you for committing to a more compassionate and peaceful future.


Clai Lasher-Sommers
Executive Director

p.s. — As Governor Scott noted in his remarks today, “Knowing that there will always be more work to do, today we chose to try.” We hope that you’ll stand with us as we keep trying–and succeeding–in this difficult and necessary work.

The Encouragement of Light

The Encouragement of Light

How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being, otherwise, we all remain too frightened.

–Hafiz, It Felt Love

Dear Friends,

In this season of turmoil and transformation, I’ve been learning about—and from—crocuses.

The flowers of the snow crocus focus the energy of the sunlight, so much so that the air at the heart of a crocus blossom can be as much as ten degrees warmer than the surroundings. Newly emerged insects warm themselves in crocus blossoms. They are a fierce and breathtaking harbinger of the coming spring.

On a path I often travel, this week there are beautiful new crocuses. They’ve been with me in my prayer time, and I think they’ve been telling me a story. I feel led to share that story with you:

It was quiet and dark below ground. Nothing changed; nothing stirred. Nothing grew. It felt safe. For all anyone remembered, it had always been this way.

No one risked; no one failed. No one danced or sang; no one was vulnerable. And so, no one learned or laughed. And no one was able to truly love…

Read more

In This Issue:

We’ve all been doing some heavy lifting

Putney Friends Meeting —

We know we’ve been asking a lot from our supporters these past few weeks. Getting these gun violence prevention bills passed is no mean feat, and we’ve all been doing some heavy lifting.

  • We believe that the final vote on S.55 (background checks) will start TOMORROW, 3/30, at 11:30.

  • We must be there, letting our Senators know that we support their YES vote!

Can you come to the Senate chamber starting at 9:30? Bring a book. Bring a friend. Once you have a seat, take turns spelling each other and enjoy some coffee in the cafeteria.


We are so close to passing this bill. We must draw on one another’s energy for this final push.

Thank you for being there,


Sen. Jeanette White showing some resistance to gun legislation

Dear Putney Friends Meeting — GunsenseVT

Thank you for all that you’ve done in support of gun violence prevention, and particularly in support of S.55 (background checks).

The bill is on its way, but we are not there yet.

Sen. Jeanette White is showing some resistance to the changes approved by the House yesterday. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she has a lot of influence over what happens with this bill.

Please contact Sen. White today and ask her to approve the changes to S.55 and vote YES.


(802) 387-4379

Or call the State House and leave a message for her at 802-828-2228.


With great thanks for your support,

Clai Lasher-Sommers
Executive Director

A lot is happening

Dear Friends, GunsenseVT

If it seems like you’ve been hearing from us a lot, it’s because a lot is happening. We have a big opportunity to make real strides in gun violence prevention, and we can’t let up.


Universal Background Checks has made it through the Senate and is now in the House Judiciary Committee. The Committee is hearing testimony on Wednesday 3/14 and Thursday 3/15.



Your presence.

If you can commit even an hour or two to attending the House Judiciary Committee meeting to show your support, that would be very powerful.

Wednesday 3/14 — Testimony will begin at 9:00 and go through the afternoon with a break from 11:45-1:00
Thursday 3/15 — Testimony is scheduled for the morning only beginning at 9:00

You don’t need to speak. Simply being there is enough. Wear a GunSense button if you have one. If you don’t, we will have some available.

When you enter the State House, a page should be able to help you locate the meeting room. Rooms are also posted on a board in the main lobby.

On behalf of the leadership of GunSense, I hope we’ll see you there.
Clai Lasher-Sommers
Executive Director


p.s.–if you can come to Montpelier for an hour, please let us know by RSVPing here.

Together, we are making a difference

Dear Friends,GunsenseVT
Together, we are making a difference. Gun violence prevention is a top priority in the state capital right now and this historic shift is being driven by the voices of Vermonters calling for change.  
Governor Phil Scott took a courageous step when, in response to a school school threat in Fair Haven, VT, he changed his position and called for immediate passage of gun violence prevention reforms. He needs to hear your voice of support, now. 
Please call his switchboard, (802)-828-3333, to leave a message thanking him for his leadership and urging him to keep it up.
The gun lobby wants the Governor to back down. Don’t let them drown the majority of Vermonters’ voices out.
Please call the Governor’s message line today at (802)-828-3333.

Clai Lasher-Sommers

Executive Director