Commentary: Washington, D.C. — On a press call this afternoon, experts and advocates, including representatives of the business community, the Salvadoran community and TPS holders, condemned the Trump Administration’s unprincipled decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 200,000 Salvadorans and called on Congress to step in and enact legislation to provide a path to permanent status for Salvadorans and others with TPS..
Cristian Chavez Guevara, Salvadoran TPS holder, Houston, TX, said, “In 2001, because of the earthquake in El Salvador, TPS was granted to Salvadorans. My life changed. I was able to get a license, pay taxes, and my life finally seemed to feel normal. Since then, I’ve been building dreams for the future and working to pave a more promising path forward for my family. All of that has come to a halt today, when the President decided to end TPS. The economic situation in El Salvador is very bad. Organized crime controls the streets and neighborhoods. As TPS holders, we help fill economic needs for our families back in El Salvador. But, all of our dreams and hopes ended today.
“My wife is a U.S. citizen and my children are citizens, and I have also raised my cousin because her mother was deported when she was young. What am I going to do now? How am I going to tell them I have to go? I have been living a normal life for 17 years — paying taxes and working. I received IT training and have been working in the field since I was 21 years old. I have been responsible and have learned the industry. I have done what an immigrant should do. It’s hard to come to this situation now after 17 years of a normal life. I love this country; we want to continue our lives here.”
Royce Murray, Policy Director, American Immigration Council, said, “We’ve kicked off 2018 with a tragic decision that will end lawful status for 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived and worked here legally for 17 years. 37,000 Salvadoran TPS holders work in construction doing critical work to build Americans’ homes and cities, but also to rebuild communities devastated by hurricanes in recent months in Texas and Florida, and by wildfires in California. 22,000 TPS holders work in the restaurant and food industry. They’ve been here for so long that they are skilled, experienced workers now in supervisory jobs.
“The majority has lived here for over 20 years; they have built families. Nearly 200,000 U.S. citizen children rely on one or more parents with TPS. 34% of Salvadoran TPS holders own homes and pay mortgages. And let’s not forget: these holders are regularly vetted by the government and do not present any public safety concerns. They have been vetted 11 times since they have been granted status. 88% of TPS holders are in the labor force. Unlike DACA, TPS holders all have employment authorization through the same date, meaning that on September 9, 2019, all 200,000 Salvadoran TPS holders will lose their jobs, generating huge turnover costs for their employers too. If this administration can’t protect longtime residents from the risk of deportation, then Congress needs to act and recognize that this community of TPS holders needs a permanent solution.”
Frank Mora, Director, Florida International University’s Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere, said, “This decision, it seems to me, is counter-productive with the respect to Salvadoran-U.S. relations and national security. El Salvador is among the most violent countries in the world, with the highest homicide rates in the world. The administration has focused some on the Americas, as it has tried to identify drivers of immigration and violence by returning 200k. I see this as a self-inflicting wound.
“One data point I’d like to share that some people don’t realize: 17% of El Salvador’s GDP comes from remittances sent from Salvadoran communities here in the U.S. This is a significant chunk of the Salvadoran economy that would have an immediate and significant impact on the already precarious political and social situation in the country. It would only worsen the current situation and increase violence and immigration. Two things the administration wants to prevent. It makes no sense. I urge Congress who has the ability to look at this in broader, strategic implications on security in the western hemisphere and in the United States.”
Mark Drury, Vice President of Business Development, Shapiro & Duncan, Inc., said, “These folks have, without a doubt, contributed to the success of the United States. They have done all we have asked them to do. And they have become a part of the fabric of what makes America great. We certainly don’t want to deport these people; we don’t want to fill more positions within our field. There are not people waiting to take these jobs, what these folks are doing. We work hard every day adding people to our industry, talking to students about wonderful opportunities that construction offers. It’s a great field to start at the bottom with no skill and make it to CEO by having the right attitude. The sky is the limit. We see this sentiment in action, in many employees with TPS status, taking advantage of every opportunity. I wish more people and businesses would speak up and step up.”