On January 8, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will end “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) for about 200,000 citizens of El Salvador who have been living legally and working in the U.S. with that status since earthquakes devastated their country in early 2001. The initial TPS designation sprang from that natural disaster, but TPS has been extended repeatedly for Salvadorans in 18 month increments because of instability from an economy still struggling to recover, one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and rampant crime and gang violence. Despite the fact that these challenges continue (as indicated in this 2017 State Department report about the country’s capital, although the State Department appears to have recently scrubbed its website of its long-standing El Salvador travel warnings), Salvadorans are being given until September 9, 2019 to depart the U.S.
More than half of Salvadorans with TPS have lived in the U.S. for two decades or more. Many arrived when they were younger than 16 and have lived over half of their lives here. They are parents to approximately 200,000 U.S. citizen children, and have put down roots here, buying homes, starting businesses, contributing to our communities as workers, volunteers, taxpayers and consumers.
Salvadorans with TPS participate in the labor force at far higher rates than the native-born population (88% participation compared to 63%), and are integral members of our economy. In Maine, they work in our hospitality, caregiving, food processing, agriculture, construction and other industries – sectors that are crying out for more workers as Maine’s unemployment rate persists at or below 4% for more than two years.
Forcing these long-term members of our communities to return to El Salvador is inhumane, and economically unsound as well. Congress must work to create a path to permanent residency for Salvadorans with TPS before their status expires in 2019.