With the Trump administration announcing Monday it wants to deport even more immigrants, Congress must come to the rescue.
This time, President Donald Trump and his Department of Homeland Security are targeting about 200,000 Salvadorans and their children, including an estimated 49,000 who call California home. They fled natural disaster in El Salvador and have been given shelter here under temporary protected status.
This move is counterproductive, it violates our values and it’s plain cruel.
Many in the program have been living and working in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. They have established deep roots in communities, especially in Los Angeles, home to about 30,000. Some arrived as children and grew up in America. Some are married to U.S. residents and some have children of their own, who are U.S. citizens. If they are sent back to El Salvador, families would be torn apart.
Just as he gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative fix for Dreamers – some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, including 200,000 in California – Trump is giving lawmakers until September 2019 if they want to protect the Salvadorans.
Several bills have been introduced to provide a path to legal residency for Salvadorans. Now, there’s an urgent deadline to act.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is co-sponsoring one bill, complained Monday that Trump did not consult with her or fellow California Sen. Kamala Harris. “This is yet another example of the Trump administration taking an action with significant consequences for California without making any attempt to understand the harm it would cause,” Feinstein’s statement says.
Salvadorans are the largest group of foreigners benefiting from temporary protected status, and their protection had been extended several times since 2001 under Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. The last extension, in 2016, cited drought, poverty and gang violence in their home country.
While Homeland Security said Monday that Salvadorans no longer belong in the TPS program because damage has been repaired from two 2001 earthquakes that killed more than 1,000, their supporters point out that El Salvador is still full of violence, gangs and human trafficking.
Already, the Trump administration has ended TPS for 5,300 Nicaraguans, effective in January 2019, and nearly 60,000 Haitians, effective in July 2019. It is considering doing so for 86,000 Hondurans.
At the same time, Trump wants $18 billion to build a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico as part of any deal to protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. After slashing the number of refugees allowed to enter and repeated attempts to ban travel from several Muslim-majority countries, he is vowing to end the visa lottery and “chain migration” to supposedly protect the homeland from terrorists.
The president’s persistent assault on immigrants highlights the need for comprehensive reform. But it has to be fair and just and true to America’s history. There is no indication that’s what we’ll get from Trump, so Republicans and Democrats in Congress must step up.