As the January 8 deadline draws near for the Trump administration to make a decision on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador, a coalition of mayors from around the nation are urging the administration to extend the program, with the fate of 190,000 Salvadorans across the United States hanging in the balance.
Those Salvadoran TPS holders—several thousand of which live on Long Island—are well-entrenched in the fabric of our communities, having lived in the U.S. for an average of 21 years. Nationally, they have an estimated 192,700 U.S.-born children.
The coalition, dubbed Cities For Action, is made up of 19 mayors including those of Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City’s Bill de Blasio. The mayor expressed solidarity with 4,000 Salvadoran New Yorkers, calling for an 18-month extension of the program.
Anti-immigrant critics point to the word “temporary” in TPS, but neglect the fact that the conditions that facilitate the need for such a program still exist in El Salvador, including widespread gang violence in the country.
“When their country was hit by a natural disaster, these individuals took refuge in our city and have since become deeply embedded in our economy, houses of worship, schools and neighborhoods,” de Blasio stated. “Not only that, but over 3,500 U.S.-born children live in families with a Salvadoran TPS recipient. It would be callous and cruel to rip these productive residents from their homes to force them back to a country that is experiencing tremendous violence and instability.”
The program’s cancellation could mark the third recent blow to TPS. The Trump administration declined to renew TPS for Haiti in November 2017, with the program set to terminate in July 2019. This came just weeks after the administration also decided the same for Nicaraguans, with their program’s expiration set for January 2019. Honduran TPS awaits a decision for an extension in May after being automatically renewed in November 2017 because of a lack of a determination made by the administration.
Salvadoran TPS is poised to expire on March 9, so a decision to renew the program must be made on or before January 8. If no explicit decision is made, the program will be automatically extended by six months.
In the January 3 letter, addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Cities For Action explains that on the ground in El Salvador, gang activity is rampant, armed robbery is commonplace, and it ranks as one of the murder capitals of the world.
“As the State Department human rights report from 2017 noted, one in five families in El Salvador claims to have been victims of violent crimes. Women and children have been particularly vulnerable to endemic sexual abuse and gender-based violence,” the letter read.
Further, the coalition points to Salvadoran TPS holders as having an 88 percent participation rate in the labor force, coming together to contribute $3 billion to the U.S. GDP.
It is more than self-evident that Salvadoran TPS holders are not only here to make a better life for themselves as well as Americans, they are also fleeing turmoil and instability that endangers their very lives. The compassionate and economically sound decision is to extend TPS, but it also crucial to enact a permanent solution to their plight through a pathway to citizenship.