By Dylan Carlson Sirvent, ’19
After a pair of devastating earthquakes hit El Salvador in 2001, the U.S. allowed 200,000 El Salvadorans to come to the United States as refugees, granting them Temporary Protected Status (TPS). More than ten years later of living in the U.S., making homes, and starting families, they are being forced to leave.
The Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying “the secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current T.P.S. designation must be terminated.” The administration also stated that T.P.S. had turned into a quasi-permanent benefit for hundreds of thousands of people.
Yet, according to the Center for Migration Studies, 88 percent of Salvadoran beneficiaries participate in the labor force (compared with 63 percent for the overall United States population); nearly a one-quarter have a mortgage; and, the median household income for Salvadorans with T.P.S. is $50,000, higher than the average of $36,000 for unauthorized immigrants. Their higher wages, combine with lack of public benefits (beneficiaries are not offered federal welfare), has been a big win for U.S. taxpayers.
Not only are they positive contributing members to the American economy, but to society and schools. Currently, Salvadorans under T.P.S. have a combined 192,700 American-born children. These children are American citizens, and most of them have never been to El Salvador. It is a foreign land for them. Their home has always been the United States. It is where they were born, where they grew up, and where they made their homes.
Days after announcing the end of T.P.S. the U.S. State Department placed a Level 3 Travel Advisory for El Salvador, warning citizens to avoid going to the country stating that “violent crime, such as murder, assault, rape, and armed robbery, is common,” and that “gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics and arms trafficking, is widespread.” It seems strange that the government seems willing to force these families to go back to a country that it advises its citizens not to even visit.
This issue is not about liberals versus conservatives. It is not an ideological battle. This issue is about about humans and family values. It is about compassion. As Ohio governor John Kasich and former Florida governor Jeb Bush wrote in an opinion article on the New York Times, “As republicans, whose party has consistently and rightly advanced policies to support the essential role of families in America… It is wrong to potentially break up so many families that have for so long made the United States their home—legally and at our invitation.”
On a final note, it is worth to heed this passage from Leviticus 19:33-34, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”