New Policy Will Send 200,000 Salvadorans Out of the U.S.

Sean Bennett, Reporter

In the Trump Administration’s most recent change to immigration policy, Homeland Security officials announced that the Temporary Protected Status (T.P.S.) held by Salvadorans living in the U.S. will be terminated. The statement was released Monday, Jan. 8, and is expected to impact 200,000 Salvadorans.

The Temporary Protected Status, which was originally extended to Salvadorans in 2001, allowed them to live and work legally in the United States. The extension was made in wake of a highly destructive earthquake in El Salvador and was intended to help those who fled the country. However, Homeland Security officials stated, “The secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist,” and therefore the program must end. They also clarified that Salvadorans living in the U.S. under the protective status have until September of 2019 to leave the country. After that, they will be marked as illegal immigrants.

Although it is true that the infrastructure of the country has improved since the earthquakes struck, several other factors such as severe droughts, poverty, and most of all, gang violence still grip the inhabitants of El Salvador. It is the “murder capital of the world” and the capital is considered one of the most dangerous cities on the planet, according to “Killers on a Shoestring: Inside the Gangs of El Salvador,” a New York Times article published in 2016. However, the Trump Administration said the only factor that should be considered is the original reason for the protection.

Salvadorans are the largest group to lose their protective status, but they are not the first. 45,000 Haitians lost their T.P.S. just weeks before this announcement was made, while Nicaraguans lost theirs last year. All of these revocations suggest Hondurans, who were only granted a six month extension back in November, could be next. Similarly, 800,000 undocumented “Dreamers” from Mexico could potentially lose their protections (provided by a program separate from T.P.S.) in March.

The proposed removal of such a large group will have an undeniable effect on both the U.S. and El Salvador. Money sent by Salvadorans in the U.S. to their families in El Salvador account for 17% of the country’s economy according to a New York Times article titled “Trump Administration Says That Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans Must Leave.” This extra funding is vital to the lives of many of El Salvador’s people, as 40 percent of households struggle below the poverty line. Additionally, Salvadorans in the U.S. play a significant role in the workforce, particularly in states such as California, Texas, and Virginia. Hurricane Harvey recovery and repair efforts have already been slowed by a labor shortage, and the loss of Salvadorans would only worsen the situation. Stan Marek, the chief executive of a construction company with offices in Texas and Atlanta has at least 29 Salvadorans on payroll. “During hurricane recovery, I especially need those men,” Marek said. “If they lose their status, I have to terminate them.”

Although it’s hard to imagine what Salvadorans in the U.S. are going through, there are plenty of immigrants, in Miami especially, that can relate and empathize with them. Junior Angel Chavez is a perfect example. He and his family came to the U.S. from Venezuela when he was just three years old. They left when a dictator rose to power. “My parents just knew to leave,” he said. He experienced struggles that all immigrants face, Salvadoran or otherwise. “Adjusting to new norms and learning a new language” were some of the major points Chavez noted. His case highlights a problem that many Salvadoran families will have to face if they leave the U.S. “I was raised here,” he said, “I would be devastated if I had to go back to Venezuela.”

Salvadorans protected by T.P.S. will have a very hard decision to make in 2019. It’s a choice no one wants to make; either return to a broken country, overrun by poverty and crime, or stay in the U.S. and live in the constant fear of deportation. It is impossible to deny that El Salvador, the United States, and most of all Salvadorans will feel the impact of this decision for years to come.