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The War on Immigrants continues to escalate: Temporary Protected Status of 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants has been revoke by the US Government

January 10, 2018

Approximately 200,000 Salvadorans, many of whom have resided in the United States since becoming eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 2001, will have until September 2019 to either willingly leave the United States, obtain U.S.legal permanent residency by some other means, or else face deportation. 

“What these long-term residents of the United States needed is a pathway to citizenship. Instead, under Trump, they will be forced to turn their lives upside down and drag their children back to one of the most violent countries in the world,” said a spokesperson from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

The Trump administration previously ended TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans in November 2017, affecting about 50,000 Haitians and some 2,500 Nicaraguans. A decision on the 61,000 Honduran recipients of TPS is expected before May 4, 2018.

Salvadoran officials, including President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, appealed to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as recently as last week not to go through with the decision, arguing that it would wreak havoc on El Salvador’s economy. The tiny Central American nation relies heavily on remittance payments sent from Salvadorans living in the U.S. to their family members back home.

TPS is a program that has allowed administrations to extend temporary residency to foreign nationals on U.S. soil at a time when a profound disaster—natural or political—strikes in their home countries. Originally, close to 300,000 Salvadorans in the United States were vetted and granted TPS after a killer earthquake rocked the small Central American country in 2001, as the Center for Public Integrity explained in a recent story. Congress created TPS as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. 

Kent County is home to several thousand Salvadorans, which means that families will be torn apart or face the difficult task of returning to a country that is extremely violent and where more than half the population lives in poverty.

The announcement to end TPS for Salvadorans from the Trump administration is part of a long line of policies that have been devastating for Salvadorans. The US has been a supporter of the wealthiest families, many of which own coffee plantations, for the better part of a century.

In 1932, the US backed the Salvadoran military, which slaughtered an estimated 10,000  coffee workers in one day, because they dared to organize against the harsh working conditions and poverty wages. This event is known in El Salvador as La Matanza – The Massacre.

From the late 1970s through the early 1990s, the US supported the death squad government of El Salvador, which killed about 80,000 of its own people in a brutal counter-insurgency war. During the peak of those years, the US government was providing $1 million a day to the government of El Salvador to suppress their own people. In 1980, Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero wrote to then President Jimmy Carter and asked him to stop sending money for weapons. Weeks later, the Archbishop was shot dead by Salvadoran soldiers while saying mass in San Salvador.

Because of the government repression, thousands pf Salvadorans fled their country to come to the US, but were often denied asylum. In 1984, the US Sanctuary Movement was born and faith-based groups and other organizations were taking people in who were fleeing repression in El Salvador and Guatemala.

During the 1990s, and especially after the 1994 Peace Accords, El Salvador was subjected to Structural Adjustment Programs by the World Bank/IMF loans, which meant that the government had to privatize many formerly public services and reduce spending on social services. It was during this time that the level of state corruption and street level violence increased, violence which continues til today.

This is the legacy of US policy with El Salvador and the decision to end TPS for Salvadorans living in the US, who now have to leave within the next 18 months, is just the most recent repressive policy the US has imposed on the Salvadoran people.

This decision to take away TPS from Salvadorans living in the US is just another aspect of the growing war against immigrants. It is time that we increased our level of resistance to such policies and consider offering sanctuary to those who are being forced to leave, much like the resistance and sanctuary work being done in the 1980s in Grand Rapids.

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