Catholic leaders are denouncing the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for more than 200,000 Salvadorans living in the United States.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced the decision Jan. 8. Salvadorans will have until Sept. 9, 2019 to return to their country.
“The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador is heartbreaking,” Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Tex., chairman of the Committee on Migration said in a statement. “Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families—they too are children of God.”
Salvadorans are the largest immigrant group who had received T.P.S., which is granted by the Department of Homeland Security to accept those whose home countries are suffering from ongoing conflict, environmental disasters or other unsafe conditions and protects them from deportation.
“Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families—they too are children of God,” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Tex.
In the case of Salvadorans, 88 percent are part of the workforce and they are parents to 192,700 U.S. citizen children, according to the Center for Migration Studies.
“It’s a short-sighted, lose-lose decision,” Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies of New York, to America. He called the decision a demonstration of the Trump administration’s ideology. “It’s more than just policy driven. It’s driven by a white nationalist view. They want to create immigrants in their own image. If anyone doesn’t fit the bill—either by race or economic status—they are trying to remove them. You have to connect the dots.”
Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy and public affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said families with U.S. citizen children will have to decide whether to return to El Salvador together or separate, with the children remaining in the United States.
“These are people who we want to ensure continue to be part of our society.”
“It’s really important that Congress works to fix this situation, especially for long-term recipients that have been here for many years,” she said. “They have made so many contributions, own homes, run businesses and are leaders in our churches. These are people who we want to ensure continue to be part of our society.”
Ms. Feasly encouraged recipients of T.P.S. to consult a reputable immigration service provider like the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., and the American Immigration Lawyers Association to find out if their status can be legally changed.
Bishop Kevin Vann, chairman of the board of CLINIC and bishop of the Diocese of Orange, Calif., said T.P.S. has given Salvadorans protection from the long-standing violence in El Salvador and allowed them to start new lives.
“They have shown themselves, by their desire for education and care of their families, to be contributors to the common good of the United States. In many places they are our neighbors and friends,” he said in a statement. “This decision unfortunately calls to mind the anti-foreigner (and at times anti-Catholic) sentiment which has so marred the history of our county.”
Catholic Relief Services also called on Congress to act to protect recipients of T.P.S.
Bishop Vann said the administration failed to “address how it makes the United States any safer” to end T.P.S. “Instead of withdrawing their protections, our government should welcome these long-term, settled members of our communities and find ways to give them a permanent path to residency.”
In their statement, Catholic Relief Services also called on Congress to act to protect recipients of T.P.S.
“Terminating T.P.S. will tear families apart, negatively affect communities both here in the U.S. and in El Salvador that depend on T.P.S. holders for economic support and undercut the U.S.’ goal to reduce poverty, decrease irregular migration and promote citizen security in the region,” according to C.R.S. “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.”
Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, said the Trump administration claims to welcome lawful immigrants while “it continues to eviscerate legal immigration programs and marginalize immigrant families.”
Mr. Kerwin noted a pattern over the last four months: a record low refugee resettlement ceiling; the dismantling of the Central American Minors program, which permitted refugee children from the Northern Triangle states to join parents in the United States; and the termination of T.P.S. for Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
“These decisions came on the heels of [the Trump administration’s] decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, without any substitute in place, based on exaggerated and uncharacteristic concerns over executive overreach,” Mr. Kerwin noted, adding that the president committed to reducing family-based immigration and the diversity visa program.
“He has characterized both these programs as a menace to the nation’s security. Attacks on refugee and legal migration programs have become a defining characteristic of this administration,” he said. “Today’s decision creates many losers, and no winners.”