Almost 200,000 people from El Salvador, who have been living in the United States for more than decade, are being forced to leave the country. The decision is the latest in the Trump administration’s reversal of immigration policies.
The decision to end the humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans, is the Trump administrations most consequential to date.
Temporary Protected Status shields individuals from from deportation if they have arrived in the United States illegally when fleeing countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster or other strife. Salvadorans were protected after the devastating earthquakes that struck their country in 2001. Since then, the United States has extended the program several times. Despite pleading from immigrant advocates and the El Salvadoran government, the Trump administration refused.
El Salvadorans are not the first to lose these protections. A few weeks ago 45,000 Hiatians lost protections granted after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. Previous to that, Nicaraguans lose their protections. It is rumored that others protected by the program, specifically Hondurans, will lose their protections next.
The Trump Administration plans to end the program fro Salvadorans by September 9, 2019. Individuals covered by the program will have a chance to reregister and renew their current status to live and work in the United States for one final 18-month extension.
Over 260,000 Salvadorans were approved for TPS due to the civil war in their country in 1990. These protected individuals were granted “deferred enforcement departure” through 1995, but when two Earthquakes hit the country in 2001, the U.S. granted TPS to them. Since then the status has been extended in approximately 18-month increments by both Democrat and Republican administrations.
The last time the government renewed the protections, they cited drought, poverty and widespread gang violence – all of which still exist in El Salvador.
16 percent of the current Salvadoran population in the U.S. are TPS holders. These people in turn or parents to about 200,000 U.S. citizen children.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, circumstances resulting from the 2001 earthquakes “no longer exist.” Yet El Salvador continues to be one of the deadliest countries, commonly referred to as the murder capital of the world. One in five families claim to have been victims of violent crimes.
What’s more, money sent home to El Salvador by families working and living in the United States makes up 17 percent of the country’s GDP.
This decision sends many families into limbo, disrupting the lives they have built for themselves here. Many of them believe “There is nothing to go back to in El Salvador,” because they have lived her for so long and El Salvador remains “in no condition to receive us.”
The decision also affects local economies in the United States. In Houston, the elimination of protected status would aggravate a labor shortage that has delayed repairs after Hurricane Harvey. Construction companies in the area have many El Salvadorans on their payroll that are TPS recipients.
Families will also have to decide whether or not to take the U.S.-born children with them back to El Salvador or not.