Temporary Protected Status: A Reprieve from Disaster

In the late morning of January 13, 2001, El Salvador was rocked by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that triggered vicious landslides in every part of the country. Almost 1,000 people were killed, with thousands more injured and displaced. Over 108,000 homes were destroyed. Life came to a halt.

Over the next month, still reeling from the first, massive quake, El Salvador was pummeled by more than 2,500 aftershocks, two registering at more than 5.7 on the Richter scale. Among them, the aftershocks and the insistent landslides made recovery in the near future extremely difficult; an economy and system of government made weak and dangerous by a US-backed civil war in the ’80s and ’90s made it all but impossible.

Seeing this horror unfolding, the US government extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to 200,000 of the earthquake’s victims. They would be granted permission to move to the US and work, on the understanding that they should return to El Salvador when the country had recovered. Their status would be renewed every 18 months if they paid the hundreds of dollars in processing fees on time. Crucially, it was assumed that they would send money home to their families – remittances – that could bolster the economy and speed recovery.

There Has Been A Change in Your Status

Next week will mark 17 years since the quake hit El Salvador. It will also mark two weeks since the Trump administration announced its decision not to renew TPS for the Salvadoran refugees.

In September of 2019, these people will be forced to return to a country that remains, for many, a difficult place to build a life. El Salvador is in the grip of one of the highest murder rates in the world, and its economy – 17% of which is based on remittances sent home by TPS recipients – isn’t ready for 200,000 new, skilled workers. Violence at the hands of gangs and police is common. If the TPS recipients are forced to return to El Salvador, Amnesty International predicts they could face “extortion, kidnapping, coerced service to gangs, and sexual violence.”

El Salvador has not recovered from the devastation wreaked by US meddling in its political landscape, and has not recovered from the damage done to the economy by the disasters that visited the land in January 2001. It is not a safe place to call home.

Ending TPS for the Salvadoran refugees is a betrayal.

This Land is Our Land

For the past 17 years, El Salvador’s TPS recipients have lived, worked, and built families and communities in the United States. They have paid taxes on their income, and bolstered the government with visa fees. For the better part of a generation, they have made America better.

They are also not the first group of TPS recipients to be denied a right to continue making America better by the current government. 46,000 residents from Haiti had their status revoked last year, while 2,500 from Nicaragua had theirs revoked at the very beginning of 2018. 57,000 Honduran TPS recipients will learn their fate in July of this year.

We need a path to lawful permanent residence for TPS recipients. It is immoral in the extreme to assure families of semi-permanent status and then revoke it in order to fulfill the perceived wishes of a minority of the American electorate.

To help them, start here:

  • Thank our Senators for supporting the SECURE Act, which would create a path to residency for TPS recipients. Senator Feinstein was one of those who introduced the bill in the Senate, and Senator Harris supported it from the outset.
  • Contact your Representative too: Barbara Lee has issued a strong statement opposing the Administration’s action and Mark DeSaulnier has also spoken out on his facebook page and in his email newsletter; thank them. And tell Eric Swalwell that he, too, should speak publicly and loudly decrying this action for the betrayal that it is.
  • Educate yourself about how Trump is damaging legal immigration without involving Congress. Tell others what you learn.
  • Fight for a clean DREAM Act. Thousands will lose their DACA this year unless we act.
  • Be a friend to immigrants. This article was written by one. Two of her best friends are here on H1-B visas, living in fear that their status will be revoked. This is a horrible time to be a non-citizen. This author feels like a traitor every time she pays tax to the US government, because that same government is using her money to visit her worst nightmares on innocent people. The vast majority of immigrants can’t vote. We need you to vote in ways that let us continue to live with you and be a part of something that seemed so wonderful to us that we left everything familiar behind to be a part of it.



Image lovingly pilfered from NPR.


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