Uncertainty As Salvadoran Community Braces For Incoming TPS Decision

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With the decision on whether to renew Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans fast approaching, status holders are hopeful, but are bracing for a potential loss of the program, a move that could impact about 190,000 Salvadorans around the nation and thousands on Long Island.

Salvadoran TPS is set to expire on March 9, 2018, so a decision to renew the program must be made on or before January 8, 2018. If no decision is made, the program will be automatically extended by six months, which occurred last month with Honduras’s decision.

The Trump administration declined to renew TPS for Haiti last month, with the program set to terminate in July 2019. This was decided just weeks after the administration also decided the same for Nicaraguans, with their program’s expiration set for January 2019.

TPS gives migrants and refugees from such countries temporary legal status from crises like natural disasters or armed conflict. While it’s called “temporary,” on-going instability abroad makes return not only extreme challenging for many immigrants, but also potentially life-threatening for some.

Still, Miguel Antonio Alas Sevillano, consul general for El Salvador in Long Island, New York, and Connecticut, said that the Salvadoran community is “optimistic.” He added that advocates and Salvadoran representatives have been appealing to United States officials to extend TPS to hopefully create a “stable environment in the near future.”

Though temporary in name, TPS has allowed immigrant Long Islanders to establish themselves here—sometimes over a period of more than a decade—when there are little options for an actual pathway to citizenship.

“I can say these families are really attached to the American economy, and also the American economy is really attached to them,” Sevillano said.

Imagining an example of the effects on the American economy, Sevillano estimated that billions of dollars could be lost if Salvadorans—many of whom are homeowners—suddenly became unable to continue paying their mortgages.

“What about all of this investment? What about all of these jobs that have been created?” Sevillano added.

Rodman Serrano, of North Bay Shore, is the son of two Salvadorans who have had TPS since 2001. He was born in the U.S., along with his two younger sisters, and is earning his degree at Stony Brook University through the English Teacher Education program.

“A lot of people are uncertain how much longer they’ll remain in this country, or how much longer they’ll be working at their current jobs. For parents, it’s even worse, they have to start making plans and arrangements… if they have to leave behind their children,” Serrano said. “It’s a nightmare for everyone.”

Serrano, 23, added that in his neighborhood, there are many Salvadorans, including those with TPS. He has been making the rounds as a dedicated advocate for TPS holders and Dreamers alike, and is a frequent participant in rallies and actions throughout Long Island, including by telling his own story for the record before the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission.

“We aren’t allowing ourselves to just mourn. It’s very important for us, and for many other people, to start taking action. It’s going to take a community to help make things better for themselves and for their children,” Serrano said.

Despite what the TPS decision may be, Serrano said that his family will get through the ordeal, one way or another.

“Our life may change, but the love that we have for one another doesn’t change. It only grows stronger. We will just find another way to continue living and being with each other.”

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Jano Tantongco is the online editor of Long Island Wins. He's previously worked in community journalism as a staff reporter for The Long Islander and The Queens Courier. He aims to pursue truth through a combination of rational inquiry and intuition. He also enjoys bossa nova, road trips and zen philosophy.

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