Our Opinion: Trump's contempt for immigrants seen in Salvadoran policy

On Monday, the Trump administration announced, through its Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, that it was terminating Temporary Protection Status for all protected Salvadorans within the U. S. as of September of 2019 (Eagle, January 9). TPS is a program wherein citizens of certain countries were shielded from deportation if they arrived illegally as the result of catastrophes — be they natural or man-made — until the U.S. government determined that the original reason for their acceptance in this country had been rectified.

In the case of Salvadorans, the largest group in the U.S. under protected status, a pair of earthquakes in 2001 devastated their already impoverished homeland, spurring a wave of refugees to this country. Since then, their TPS status has been regularly renewed until now, when the Trump DHS announced that in its opinion, El Salvador had been sufficiently rebuilt to warrant the deportation of its displaced citizens.

According to the Berkshire Immigrant Center, out of an estimated 200,000 TPS-protected Salvadorans living in the U.S., more than 6,000 live in Massachusetts. Of those, the BIC currently services 40 Salvadoran clients in Berkshire County. Since all these people were granted legal residency, they moved on with their lives following the typical immigrant model; they found jobs, started companies, paid taxes, gave birth to children who are U.S. citizens, bought houses and basically set down permanent roots.

The new policy articulated on Monday is dead wrong on several fronts: First, even if El Salvador's infrastructure has been repaired to DHS's satisfaction, the country itself is unable and unwilling to roll out the welcome mat for a horde of returning citizens. El Salvador is poor, and its president has indicated that the country and its economy cannot absorb the influx. Moreover, since the refugees became entrenched in this country, they have sent back remittances to their homeland that now amount to 17 percent of the Salvadoran economy. In addition, the U.S. State Department has described the capital city, San Salvador, as one of the most dangerous places on Earth due to gang activity. "El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world, and crimes such as extortion, assault and robbery are common," it announced while urging American citizens not to travel there.

Now the typical Salvadoran TPS parent faces a lose-lose dilemma: Give up one's livelihood and go home, exposing his or her American children to unspeakable dangers in a country that is not theirs; break up the family and leave the children behind; or move into the shadows and live here illegally, which not incidentally deprives communities of tax revenue.

President Trump has made no secret of his contempt for immigrants, particularly those of the Latin American variety, and one thing is clear: he views them more as canned goods than human beings. When it's time to get rid of them, they can simply be taken off the shelf where they were being held for safekeeping, crated up, and sent back where they came from with no further consideration for their welfare or the impact of their loss upon communities across the nation, including those in Berkshire County

The reason Salvadorans and other TPS recipients have not yet been afforded a path to permanent resident status is lack of political spine on the part of Congress, whose members would prefer to string them along indefinitely, holding them for years in a torturous legal limbo, rather than face angry blowback from constituents blinded by xenophobia. These profiles in cowardice enable this xenophobia to spread.

From a humanitarian standpoint, Mr. Trump's latest act implicates every American in a collective crime which should cause us all to hide our faces in shame. The only viable solution at this point is for Congress to bite the bullet and render their status permanent.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions