In response to the decision that the Trump administration will end the Temporary Protected Status that has allowed 200,000 Salvadorans to lives in the country, Catholic Relief Services issued a statement condemning the change. "From our experience working with the Catholic Church and other local partners in El Salvador, the Salvadoran government does not have adequate humanitarian capacity to receive, protect, or integrate back into society safely this many people," said Catholic Relief Services stated shortly after the decision was announced.
In a statement on Monday, Bill O’Keefe of Catholic Relief Services strongly condemned the decision and encouraged Congress to pass bi-partisan legislation that would protect TPS recipients. “Those protected by TPS until today are loving mothers and fathers to U.S. born children, successful home and business owners, and productive members of our communities and churches,” said O’Keefe. “To terminate TPS is to disregard the potential human impact this decision could have on families and communities.”
Having lived legally in the U.S. since 2010, more than 200,000 Salvadorans now face the prospect of residing illegally or returning to El Salvador -- one of the most dangerous countries in the world that is not at war. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the provision for the Salvadorans, who have been living in the U.S. following earthquakes, will end on September 9, 2019. "The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador was made after a review of the disaster-related conditions upon which the country's original designation was based," DHS said in a statement. Salvadorans affected by the change may apply to remain under other programs, or plan on returning home. Nicaraguans, Honduras, and Haitians are also facing the termination of their TPS status.
Churches and advocacy groups such as the Texas-based Hope Border Institute have also decried the Trump administration’s decision. They argue that Salvadorans and others who have benefited from TPS now have U.S. citizen children and have established roots in the country. Catholic bishops, who are currently celebrating National Migration Week, are concerned that El Salvador is not equipped to handle such a large repatriation. The tiny Central American republic is beset by criminal narcoterrorist groups, in addition to endemic poverty and violence.
Salvadorans were eligible to apply for TPS after their country suffered several earthquakes in 2001. The program allows them to work and protects them from deportation. In 1990, then-president George H.W. Bush signed legislation enabling TPS in response to the brutal civil war in El Salvador of the time. Tens of thousands of Salvadorans responded by emigrating to the U.S. to flee violence and political repression.
Bishop Jose Vásquez, who chairs Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said recently, “Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families; they too are children of God.” he added.
The Catholic bishops of the U.S. are especially concerned about the 192,000 American citizen children of the more than 200,000 TPS recipients. In a joint letter from the Catholic bishops’ Committee on Migration and allied advocacy groups last month, they called on DHS to extend TPS. They wrote, “Terminating TPS for El Salvador now would be inhumane and untenable; El Salvador is in no position to accommodate the return of roughly 200,000 Salvadorans. In addition to potentially bringing harm to those returned, terminating TPS for El Salvador would likely destabilize this key strategic, regional partner, undermining the tremendous investments of the U.S. government.”
In the pages of The Hill, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso pleaded with DHS to save the TPS program. “How we treat the most vulnerable in our society is reflective of who we are and whether we have learned anything in the 2,000 years since the birth of another immigrant child, born in a stable because his parents could find no room for him at the inn-an event we have just celebrated,” wrote Seitz.