While many of us have the benefit of adjusting to a new year at a slow yet steady pace, more than 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants whose temporary protection status (TPS) will expire next year no longer have the luxury of settling into 2018 with ease. The Trump administration recently decided to terminate TPS designation for migrants from the Central American country by September 9, 2019, a move that stands to have widespread implications for all involved.
One major concern that comes with a deportation of this magnitude is its potential to induce a further decline in El Salvador’s economy, which will no longer be stimulated by Salvadorans in the U.S. who send billions of dollars back home to their families.
Additionally, Geoff Thale, program director at the Washington Office on Latin America, tells Business Insider that the struggling country is in no position to successfully support a mass influx of returning Salvadorans.
“Whatever the administration says about conditions in El Salvador [having] improved—I don’t actually think they have — but it’s clear to me that even if they were to have improved, they haven’t improved to the condition where the country can accept back that number of people and absorb them into the workforce,” Thale said.
Even though the U.S. clearly controls the reigns of this operation, experts say it’s dangerous to assume that the American economy won’t feel a strain as well. That isn’t difficult to comprehend, considering the fact that Salvadoran immigrants comprise half of the 400,000 people living in the U.S. under TPS.
As The Nation notes, “A recent survey…found that 94 percent of male TPS holders and 82 percent of females were working; that about one-third owned their homes; and that roughly half had advanced their education level since arriving in the United States.” Among those numbers are the many Salvadoran business owners in the U.S. who have very real concerns about how the cancellation of TPS will impact the establishments they run. Furthermore, American business owners may face steep turnover costs associated with firing TPS holders.
Clearly, the numbers don’t lie. However, there are no stats or mathematical formulas to sufficiently quantify the emotional and psychological damage the TPS termination will have on Salvadoran immigrants and their families. Since migrating from El Salvador in 2001 in the wake of a devastating earthquake that crippled the country’s infrastructure, many Salvadorans living in the U.S. under TPS have established a safe haven here for themselves and their U.S.-born children. For what it’s worth, El Salvador’s top central banker has a more positive outlook on the recent turn of events, insisting that it will boost the economy. However, many of the Salvadoran immigrants still maintain that their home country is too unstable and unsafe to offer them the prosperity and peace of mind that they’ve attained stateside.
So with a year and half to reroute the course of their lives, how can Salvadoran immigrants covered by TPS avoid deportation?
“If country conditions have changed, as they surely have, they can file for political asylum,” says immigration attorney Bruce A. Coane, who also has advice for those who might immigrate in the future. “The best case for many Salvadorans is to immigrate through an adult child who is a U.S. citizen. Once the child turns 21, the child can petition for the parent to stay in the U.S., or to otherwise qualify for an immigrant visa.”
“Everyone in the U.S. is eligible for due process, so should the government decide to chase down Salvadorans whose TPS [will] expire in September 2019, the government would have to prosecute them in immigration court, which can easily take three to 10 years,” Coane adds.
Last week, Rep. Mike Coffman proposed a bill that would completely end TPS while extending the option for permanent legal residency for the immigrants covered by the program. More legislative options have been presented, two of which will allow “TPS holders and their family members to adjust their immigration status to permanent resident,” according to Politics of Poverty.
In the meantime, Salvadoran immigrants are seriously contemplating their futures and seeking out legal guidance for long-term solutions. With crackdowns being routinely performed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and Haitians being banned from applying for visas for low-skill work in the U.S., the current administration appears to be firmly fixated on immigrants, with no sign of its gaze letting up anytime soon.