In a move that should probably surprise no one, the Trump administration has decided to kick out nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck the Central American nation in 2001.
According to The New York Times, homeland security officials announced on Monday that they are ending a humanitarian program known as Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the U.S. since the temporary protection status was granted to them after two earthquakes in January and February of 2001 killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of home. After the status was granted in March 2001, the administrations of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama extended those protections several times.
Although El Salvador has rebuilt since the earthquakes, the last time that the U.S. extended the protections (in 2016) the factors cited included drought, poverty and widespread gang violence. Due to violence in San Salvador, the capital is considered one of the most dangerous cities on Earth. This has inhibited investment and job creation in the country, prompting tens of thousands to flee and the economy to experience the slowest growth of any other Central American country.
Despite all of this, the Trump administration is claiming that the only criteria that matters in this case is whether the original reason for Temporary Protected Status (damage from the earthquakes, in this case) still exists. Of course, for those that are well aware of Trump’s hateful rhetoric against immigrants and his administration’s reversal of years of immigration policies, such as protections for DREAMers, this likely doesn’t come as a shock. Trump’s administration has already repealed protections for Haitians, who received them after the 2010 earthquake, and Nicaraguans, and Hondurans may be next.
Meanwhile, for Salvadorans currently living and working under T.P.S., the news is a devastating blow.
“We had hope that if we worked hard, paid our taxes and didn’t get in trouble we would be allowed to stay,” 39-year-old Veronica Lagunas said to The New York Times. She currently works overnight cleaning offices in Los Angeles, has two children born in the U.S. and owns a mobile home. She plans to remain in the U.S. illegally, risking arrest and deportation, when these protections officially end on September 9, 2019. She would also lose her job of 12 years and her family would lose medical insurance. However, “there is nothing to go back to in El Salvador,” she said. “The infrastructure may be better now, but the country is in no condition to receive us.”
In an administration that has already done countless of heartless things to immigrants, this seems like just one more decision that is meant to hurt those who are not privileged and (let’s face it) white.