Florida members of Congress and activists on Monday branded as “cruel” and “senseless” the Trump administration’s decision to lift the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) issued to 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants after an earthquake devastated their country
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, warned that the “cruel decision” will have “a terrible impact on our communities on 200,000 people, their relatives and the United States.”
“It’s a shame #POTUS is insensitive to the plight of so many who have contributed so much to our great nation. I have been advocating renewal since last year and will continue,” she tweeted, using the acronym for President of the United States.
About 4,500 Salvadorans in Florida who are undocumented migrants currently are covered under TPS, which was approved after the 2001 earthquake, according to the Center for American Progress.
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Democratic National Committee director Tom Perez characterized the move as a “cruel and merciless decision … by a president who is cruel and merciless.”
“By targeting those who were driven from their homes by environmental catastrophe and violence in El Salvador, Donald Trump is tearing more working families apart — putting their lives at risk, threatening our economy, and turning his back on the values that have made America great,” Perez declared.
He added that the United States is a great nation when it responds to a humanitarian crisis by helping those who need it, “not banishing them from our borders. Democrats believe that diversity and compassion are our country’s greatest strengths, and we will continue to fight for the courageous immigrant families who make our country better every day.”
Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told el Nuevo Herald that the Trump administration is systematically dismantling the few legal protections available to undocumented immigrants living in the United States, some of them for decades.
“This can only be understood as a racial cleansing. Trump is increasing the number of undocumented people. That hurts us all, economically and morally,” Rodriguez added.
The National TPS Alliance, established last year by beneficiaries of the protection program, accused the U.S. Congress of being partly responsible for the problems now faced by the Salvadoran immigrants.
While the Trump administration’s decision is “unsurprising, the inaction of Congress and other political leaders is much more devastating,” the Alliance said. “Due to its failure to pass legislation allowing for permanent residency for TPS holders, Congress is also complicit.”
Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said he was disappointed by the decision on Salvadoran TPS, as well as the same decisions previously for Hondurans and Nicaraguans.
“While hoping and waiting they would be able to return to their native countries for years, Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Haitian immigrants have become essential parts of the South Florida community by contributing to our local economy and culture,” he said. Many years of short-term extensions have created anxiety and uncertainty, not only for these immigrants and their families, but also for employers and neighbors who have welcomed them to our communities.”
Curbelo added that Congress has the responsibility to deal with the future of immigrants covered by TPS as well as the so-called Dreamers.
There are multiple legislative solutions that have already been introduced to address the Dreamer and the TPS populations, including my bipartisan RAC Act and ESPERER Act. TPS recipients and Dreamers are running out of time,” Curbelo said.
“It’s time for the leaders of both parties to start taking this issue seriously so we can give these immigrants, and those counting on them, the peace of mind to continue giving back to their communities, contributing to our economy and supporting their families,” he added.
Miami Republican Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart also criticized the decision.
“Strongly disagree with decision to end #TPS for Salvadoran nationals residing in U.S.,” he wrote on Twitter.
He said Salvadorans fled their country after the 2001 earthquake and that “while living conditions may have slightly improved, El Salvador now faces a significant problem with drug trafficking, gangs, and crime.”
Homeland Security Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said conditions in El Salvador have improved, “and therefore the TPS must be canceled.”
“Today, the Department of Homeland Security announced that in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Law, the Temporary Protection Status for El Salvador must be ended,” Nielsen added..
“For an orderly transition, it has been decided to grant a grace period of 18 months. The designation will then expire definitively on September 9 of 2019,” she said.
Her department announced the decision to end TPS for Nicaraguans in November, but also allowed a grace period that expires Jan. 5 of 2019.