President Trump’s war on immigrants entered a harsh new phase today as officials from the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was eliminating Temporary Protected Status, a humanitarian program that allowed immigrants from countries suffering natural disasters to legally live and work in the United States, for nearly 200,000 people originally from El Salvador.
Most of the Salvadorans have been in the U.S. since a devastating pair of earthquakes struck the Central American country in 2001. The announcement comes just two weeks after 45,000 Haitians were stripped of their participation in the program as well. Nicaraguans were expelled from the program last year and Hondurans are expected to be the next group to suffer the same fate. Decisions on what countries are eligible for the program, originally started under the first Bush administration, are made by the Secretary of Homeland Security and can be renewed for periods of from six to eighteen months.
According to The New York Times, the Salvadorans who were covered by the program must leave the country by September 2019, but both the Salvadoran government and immigration activists say that, although the devastation from the earthquake has been cleaned up, the drought and violence-plagued country is in no shape to accept the return of so many people. The economy of El Salvador is also highly dependent on the remittances that the U.S. residents send back to their family members remaining in the poverty-stricken country which account for 17% of the GDP.
With the Salvadorans having built lives, careers, and families in the United States and with many having American-born children with U.S. citizenship who have never known their ancestral land, the decision to return to El Salvador will be a difficult one.
Their only real options under the current administration’s openly hostile immigration policies, however, will be to either leave or lurk in the shadows as illegal residents, risking arrest and deportation by ICE agents for any minor infraction of the law. With the loss of their work permits, many will lose their livelihoods as well.
American employers will also be harshly affected by the change in policy, with Stan Marek, CEO of the major construction company Marek Brothers, stating that the move will worsen an already difficult labor shortage in the Houston area as it rebuilds from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
“During hurricane recovery, I especially need those men,” Mr. Marek said. “If they lose their status, I have to terminate them.”
With immigrants contributing an estimated nearly 15% of the U.S. economy, Trump’s immigration policies are courting dangerous economic consequences for the country, with farmers unable to harvest crops for a lack of American-born workers willing to take up the low-paying, physically taxing jobs.
Trump’s policies are born out of political expediency rather than thoughtful analysis and need to be stopped as soon as possible.