An earthquake which killed thousands in El Salvador in 2001 also started a new life for more than 200,000 immigrants in the United States. All of that could come to an end with the Trump administration’s decision to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) which gave provisional residency to Salvadoran immigrants.
The 7.7 magnitude earthquake was the most powerful to hit El Salvador in more than a decade. It was followed by two more high intensity earthquakes which destroyed neighbourhoods, homes and office buildings.
John Ashcroft who was the U.S. Attorney General back then, proposed the TPS as a means of providing Salvadorans who had been in the United States since 2001 protection from deportation as well as work permits.
Despite reports from different administrations that confirmed conditions in El Salvador had not improved enough to accommodate the return of TPS- covered immigrants, the U.S. decided to terminate the protection effective 9 September 2019.
Activists and immigration experts believe the decision could also affect nearly 200,000 children of Salvadoran parents who were born in the U.S. and have citizenship.
Those who support the Trump administration’s decision to end TPS point to the fact that the accommodation was only temporary and offered only an 18-month designation.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 465,000 Salvadoran immigrants in the U.S. are undocumented. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that over the last five years alone, more than 58,000 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador were apprehended at the border.
Immigration experts and analysts believe poverty and violence were the primary drivers of migration with El Salvador having one of the highest murder rates in the world.
President Trump has frequently cited the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang or MS-13 as his motivation for tightening immigration enforcement.
MS-13 actually has its roots in Los Angeles. Analysts say the group was created by a wave of Salvadoran immigrants who arrived in the United States in the 1980s.
The end of the TPS could also spell disaster for the El Salvador economy which depends on remittances from its migrants. Remittances comprise 17% of El Salvador’s GDP.
El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez says the termination of the TPS will create more unemployment and poverty in the country:
“Ending TPS will be catastrophic for El Salvador’s economy because it will add more deportees to the ranks of the unemployed and eliminate the remittances which support many families in El Salvador.”