CORRECTION 1/10 – DHS=Department of Homeland Security (see below)
Giovanni Miranda was 32 years old when Salvadoran gangs murdered him in front of his family in the tiny room where they lived, behind the small auto body shop he owned. Miranda had lived for most of his life in the United States and was a legal permanent resident, but was deported in 2012, after U.S. authorities discovered a 2002 conviction for possessing a small amount of cocaine. Nothing special about his story: he is one more murder victim in one of the most violent countries in the world, the 2016 murder capital of the world.
On Monday, President Trump and his Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ordered more than 200,000 Salvadorans to return to the most violent country in the world. The administration canceled Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for all Salvadorans and gave them until September 2019 to return to El Salvador or be deported.
In doing so, they ignored pleas from the community and the request of El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez Ceren. The president has repeatedly asked for continuation of TPS status and for Congress to act to create a legislative solution that would allow the 200,000 Salvadorans to stay here, where they have lived for decades.
The consequences of ordering 200,000 Salvadorans out of the country reach far beyond these individuals. About 88 percent of Salvadorans with TPS work and pay taxes, contributing to the U.S. economy. About one-third own homes. they have U.S. citizen children—about 192,700, all of whom face either losing their parents or moving to a country they do not know and do not belong to. A dangerous country, as Vox reminds us:
“In 2015 (the most recent year for which data is available from United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime), El Salvador had 108.64 homicides per 100,000 people. That made it the deadliest country in the world by a wide margin — the next most dangerous, Honduras, had 63.75 homicides per 100,000 — and 22 times as dangerous as the United States.”
Ending TPS has terrible consequences for more than 200,000 Salvadorans, for their children and families here, for their communities, schools, churches—but also for their home country.
Edyt Mendoza de Urqilla and her husband live in a small town in El Salvador. His retirement pension is $190 a month. Without the $500 a month sent by a son in the United States, they would not have enough money for food, let alone medical costs. One in 20 Salvadoran families, like theirs, depends on remittances, the money sent to them by family members in the United States.
About one Salvadoran out of every six lives in the United States, more than 1.2 million in all. Remittances from Salvadorans living in the United States totaled $4.58 billion in 2016, according to the Voice of America. That was 17.1 percent of El Salvador’s economy.
El Salvador’s problems did not begin with the 2001 earthquake that initiated the current TPS status. Rather, those problems have a long history and one in which the United States plays no small part and no innocent part. During the bloody civil war of the 1980s, the United States backed repressive, right-wing governments and the military. During those bloody years, military and government-backed death squads targeted teachers, journalists, union leaders, religious leaders, and anyone who dared to speak against the government.
- Salvadoran soldiers assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero as he said mass in a hospital chapel.
- The Salvadoran military massacred more than 800 civilians in the village of El Mozote.
- Three churchwomen were murdered by death squads organized by the military.
- Salvadoran soldiers murdered six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter in their residence at the Central American University.
The civil war created hundreds of thousands of refugees. In 1990, Congress passed the legislation establishing Temporary Protected Status, and Salvadoran refugees were among the first recipients of TPS.
In recent years, new refugees have fled Salvadoran gangs, and police who are unwilling or unable to protect people against gangs. Many of those gangs began when the United States deported members of a Los Angeles prison gang—MS-13—back to El Salvador in the 1990s.
None of this matters to the Trump administration. Human considerations do not count. Human suffering and the separation of families does not count. All that counts is that they have the power deport, and that is what they are determined to do.
Congress can stop them. Congress can pass legislation to grant permanent residence to these people with TPS, who have already lived in the United States for at least 17 years, passing vetting after vetting, building lives and families and communities.
Correction: DHS is the federal Department of Homeland Security. At the state level, DHS=Department of Human Services, and I mistakenly typed this when first writing the post.