The Trump administration has revoked Temporary Protected Status for thousands of Salvadorans currently living in the United States. The immigrants now have until mid-2019 to make legal arrangements to stay in the United States; failing that, they must either return to El Salvador or endure life as an illegal immigrant.
About 186,000 people received the status, which allows them to live and work legally in the United States without the risk of deportation, following a devastating earthquake in El Salvador in 2001. Their legal right to be here has been renewed multiple times over the past two decades, thanks to the continually dangerous situation in El Salvador. Most have developed roots in the U.S., buying homes, building careers, and starting families.
Monday's decision put all that at risk.
Those who stay will lose their legal right to work, in addition to risking arrest and deportation. Many might still prefer that to returning to their country of origin. El Salvador was the most violent country in the world in 2016, suffering a murder rate of 91 killings for every 100,000 people. The murder rate in the United States was 5.4 per 100,000 for the same year. A full 24.5 percent of Salvadorans were crime victims in 2015, according to the U.S. State Department.
Meanwhile, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) estimates that deporting 186,000 Salvadorans will cost $1.8 billion, along with an additional $3.1 billion reduction in annual GDP.
The 1990 Immigration Act allows the executive to grant Temporary Protected Status to immigrants currently in the United States if an armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other "extraordinary and temporary conditions" in their home country poses a "serious threat a serious threat to their personal safety." This status can be renewed every 6 to 18 months without limit. Both the Bush and Obama administrations agreed multiple times to extend the 2001 protected status granted to Salvadoran immigrants in the United States.
This isn't the first time President Trump has revoked a group's Temporary Protected Status. In November he did the same thing to about 59,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans.
Salvadorans looking to stay in the country as legal residents must now turn to Congress for a fix.
In early November, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced the American Promise Act, which would grant legal residency to anyone with Temporary Protected Status who has lived in the United States for more than three years. The bill has attracted 62 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. It has yet to receiving a hearing.
"Where President Trump and the administration are failing to show moral leadership, Congress must step forwards," Velázquez said yesterday. She's not wrong about what's needed. But whether Congress will actually act is a whole other story.
Indeed, the only reason these Salvadoran immigrants have had to rely on the thin protection of these Temporary Protected Status designations is because successive Congresses have found it far easier to pass these decisions to the executive branch rather than reform our insane immigration policies. With Trump's team eager to deport any immigrants it can, this congressional abdication is looking increasingly short-sighted.