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Activistas pro inmigración, líderes comunitarios e inmigrantes protestan frente a la Casa Blanca contra la cancelación del estatus de protección temporal (TPS) a los salvadoreños. EFE
Activists pro-immigration, community leaders and immigrants protest against the cancellation of their Temporary Protective Status, in front of the White House in Washington, United States. EFE

[OP-ED]: Salvadorans are the Latest Casualties in Trump’s War on Immigrants

It’s beginning to look as if the Trump administration has declared war not only on Latin American and Caribbean immigrants, but on their countries of origin as…

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First it was the Nicaraguans, then the Haitians and now it is the Salvadorans’ turn –200,000 of them --to have their Temporary Protection Status canceled and to be ordered to leave the U.S. by September 2019. Such massive return would wreak havoc in those countries weak economies and inadequate infrastructures.

 The TPS program was created in 1990 by Congress. It grants immigrants from countries ravaged by war, natural disasters or other extraordinary problems and conditions the provisional opportunity to live and work legally in the U.S.

Salvadorans are by far the largest group of TPS beneficiaries from Central America, and losing it would affect 200,000 of them and more than 190,000 children born in the U.S. during the 17 years in which they formed families, bought homes, created business and worked in all sorts of occupations around the U.S.  They were granted the protection in 2001, after earthquakes killed 1,100 people and displaced more than 1 million.

“I am devastated,” said Salvadoran-born Osman Canales, a Long Island immigration activist who is a U.S. citizen. “This unnecessary measure affects my two sisters and their husbands. Their children were born in the U.S., and I cannot see them returning to El Salvador after having made a life for them and their children here.”

Administration officials have said their decision is based only on the factors that apply to the 2001 earthquakes and the recovery efforts since then and not to the violence. According to them, conditions have improved so much that Salvadorans do not need the TPS any longer.

“Anything else doesn’t really apply there, including potential violence on the ground,” one official said in an almost incredible statement given that El Salvador is one of most violent places in the world, and since historically the U.S. has had so much to do with creating such terrible conditions.

El Salvador registered 82 murders per 100,000 residents, one of the highest murder rates in the world in 2016. Add to this the scourge of gangs that, according to the United Nations, continue to terrorize people through threats, intimidation and “a culture of violence.” 

“As people of faith, we implore you to think about the moral imperative to love our neighbor, welcome the sojourner, and care for the most vulnerable among us,” read a letter sent to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen by 400 religious leaders prompted by the dangers Salvadorans would face at their return.

You would think that Guatemalans and Hondurans –also TPS beneficiaries- would be the next to go. Except that, opposite to El Salvador, these Central American countries are among the very few that supported Trump’s mindless decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Even more, Guatemala’s president, a comedian/evangelical minister hybrid whose admiration for everything U.S. is so great and so ridiculous that he legally changed his name from Jaime to Jimmy Morales, announced his country would follow the unpopular U.S. idea and move its own embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem also. Honduras, that is said to be considering a similar move, has already being granted a 6-month reprieve.

Whatever other reasons they may have to embark in such a treacherous move, the most immediate concern for both Guatemala and Honduras –also devastated by poverty and violence-- is to ingratiate themselves with Trump’s racist administration to avoid the deportation of their people.

Good luck with that.

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