Stop punishing TPS recipients

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Immigration activists staged a protest in front the U.S. Capitol last month to urge Congress to protect TPS.
Immigration activists staged a protest in front the U.S. Capitol last month to urge Congress to protect TPS. Getty Images

Holding true to his campaign promises to limit immigration, President Donald Trump this week ended the temporary protected status program (TPS) for Salvadorans, thousands of whom live in South Florida.

Salvadorans have until Sept. 9, 2019 to try to legalize their status in the United States. Those who do not succeed must leave the country.

They join Haitians and Nicaraguans with TPS who late last year were handed a similar deadline. Fear is that the next group up to have their TPS canceled will be Hondurans.

What a horrible, punishing position to be in.

Immigration advocates and several local members of Congress have criticized the president’s steamrolling over TPS protection.

Salvadorans were granted residence in the U.S. in 2001 after El Salvador was devastated by two earthquakes. It had previously suffered the ravages of Hurricane Mitch in 1999.

Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the president’s decision “cruel” and said it would have a “terrible impact” on the approximately 200,000 Salvadorans affected — 12 percent live in South Florida — and for their families and the communities where they have resided for years.

Added Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, “It would be devastating to send them home after they have created a humble living for themselves and their families.”

And U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo also bashed President Trump’s decision: “Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan and Haitian immigrants have become an essential part of the South Florida community by contributing to our economy and culture. ”

They are all correct. As with the end to TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans, we disagree with this heartless action by the Trump administration.

What consequences will this insensitive measure reap? The worst. Salvadorans, like the other national groups benefiting from the TPS, have integrated into the social and economic fabric of the U.S. This is their home.

Their children, numbered at more than 190,000, are U.S. citizens by birth. Deporting these parents would separate thousands of families.

Advocates say almost 70 percent of Salvadorans who received TPS have bought homes in the U.S. Many work in the service sector or in construction. Even TPS beneficiaries who came to the U.S. as children have more roots and human ties here than where they were born.

Those forced to return to El Salvador will find a country where the unemployment rate is high and everyday life is rocked by gang violence. Widespread deportations will likewise be a major blow to the economy of El Salvador, underpinned by the remittances Salvadorans living in the U.S. send to their families.

Congress must act. Currently, there are several proposals floating to resolve the uncertain future of the beneficiaries of TPS and also of DACA, the Deferred Action for Arrivals in Childhood, the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents. President Trump and congressional leaders are currently bargaining the Dreamers’ future with Mexican border security.

Legislators must address these immigration issues without delay. They must seek a humanitarian solution so families don’t have to be torn apart or have lives horribly disrupted because the U.S. is arbitrarily rolling up a welcome mat it offered up years ago.