What the loss of temporary protected status will mean for Salvadorans in the U.S.

What the loss of temporary protected status will mean for Salvadorans in the U.S.


JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has made another
consequential decision regarding immigrants in this country. The administration announced that it is ending
a program that gave temporary status to hundreds of thousands of people from El Salvador. As Lisa Desjardins explains, their protected
status will end by September 2019. LISA DESJARDINS: The U.S. gave Salvadorans
this status to help after devastating earthquakes hit in 2001. They are the latest group to face possible
deportation in the future. The Trump administration has so far announced
it would also end this temporary status for migrants from Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. In total, that would affect nearly 400,000
people in the U.S. The largest group is over 250,000 from El
Salvador. For more, I’m joined by Dara Lind, who covers
immigration for Vox. Thanks for joining us. DARA LIND, Vox: Thanks for having me, Lisa. LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s just start with what
the Trump administration says they’re doing. Why are they doing this now? DARA LIND: So, the administration has taken
the attitude that, as long as the initial disaster for which they gave TPS to somebody
— so, in this case, the earthquake in El Salvador in 2001 — as long as the country
has recovered sufficiently from that, they don’t see any reason to continue granting
protections for people to be able to stay and work in the U.S. So, they have analyzed the economy of El Salvador,
have decided that it has recovered from the 2001 earthquake, and not paid attention to
the considerations that previous administrations had of how long people have been in the U.S.,
the fact that at this point they have put down roots, that many of them now have U.S.
citizen children, that had previously prevented other presidents from stripping legal status
from people. LISA DESJARDINS: So, you said TPS, temporary
protected status. It’s interesting they are removing this status
now for El Salvadorans. And it’s a country that the State Department
under President Trump last year warned Americans not to travel to, citing one of the highest
homicide rates in the world. How does the administration square those two
things, telling Americans, don’t go there, but saying this one group of people need to
return there? DARA LIND: It’s interesting that they didn’t,
really. On today’s press call, senior administration
officials were asked about in particular MS-13, which has been a major rhetorical target of
this administration and which really has its home base in El Salvador. And they made it clear that they didn’t see
the danger as being sufficient to prevent people from going back. Of course, the irony is that they’re also
bragging about deporting MS-13 gang members back to El Salvador. And on today’s press call, they said that
the repatriation of deportees back to El Salvador is evidence that the country is doing well. So, they’re kind of engaging in this double
standard, but they’re not trying to square that circle. LISA DESJARDINS: It’s look like they’re looking
at the letter of the law. They’re saying this is a temporary status,
and we’re saying the time is up now. But you implied how is that different from
what other presidents have done? Other presidents have not seen it as temporary,
even though it’s called temporary? DARA LIND: So, the reason the temporary protected
status has been such a problem for previous administrations is there isn’t a way to get
a green card or get permanent residency in the U.S. from having temporary status. So the choice has been, do you strip legal
status from people who have been working in the U.S. for years, or do you continue to
punt the ball down the road, arguing that recovery is taking a while or other things
have changed? Previous administrations have taken the second
option. The Trump administration is taking the first
option, as you said, taking this very letter-of-the-law approach, without making any considerations
for, say, the almost 200,000 U.S.-born children, for the kind of communities that have grown
up. This is 16 percent of all El Salvadorans in
the U.S. that they are now saying, well, the initial reason for us giving you status has
ended, so we’re taking that away. LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s talk about what happens
to them now. What exactly are their options? I don’t know their advocates say they have
children here. Many of them have mortgages here. What are their options at this point? DARA LIND: So, the administration gave 18
months more that they can apply for one last work permit to figure out what their options
are. At that point, if they have spouses who are
legal residents or U.S. citizens or if they children who are above the age of 21, they
have people who will be able to petition for them to get green cards. Other than that, it’s going to be a question
of whether they can find some other way to potentially get status into the U.S. (CROSSTALK) LISA DESJARDINS: But that’s the minority,
probably, right? DARA LIND: It’s very difficult for somebody
to go from being unauthorized — or to go from not having an obvious pathway to being
able to stay in the U.S. And so the choice facing most of them is really
whether they go into the shadows and become unauthorized immigrants, or whether they go
back to El Salvador. It’s not like they are forced to go back. The Trump administration probably is not going
to deport all 200,000 people — or 250,000 people, rather, the day after their work permits
expire. But the choice of going and becoming an unauthorized
immigrant certainly doesn’t come without its risks. LISA DESJARDINS: And one last question, quickly. How are the countries involved reacting to
this? Is this changing how they see the U.S., or
no? DARA LIND: The relationship between the Trump
administration and a lot of Latin American countries has been a little bit fraught, not
least because of the way that the administration describes the MS-13 gang problem and appears
to be implicating the Salvadoran government in not doing enough to help with it. But the administration hasn’t really had its
immigration policy guided by that, right? It’s considered the America-first ideology
to be the center of it. And it’s kind of managed its relationships
with other countries around that. LISA DESJARDINS: Dara Lind of Vox, thank you
for joining us. DARA LIND: Thank you.

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