El Salvador’s New President Must Defend TPS

Immigrant Rights

This op-ed was authored by our Executive Director Iván Espinoza-Madrigal and published in Spanish by El Faro, the first digital newspaper in Latin America.

El Salvador’s New President Must Defend TPS

There are approximately 263,282 Salvadoran people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) who are living, working, and raising children in the United States. But their status is in grave jeopardy as the Trump Administration fights to end TPS protections for Salvadorans. To help protect the Salvadoran community in the United States, and to avoid destabilizing extended family members in El Salvador who rely on remittances from TPS recipients, the Bukele Administration must prioritize the preservation of TPS. We must work together across borders and political lines to ensure that the Salvadoran community is safe and protected.

TPS is nothing short of life-changing. I know this firsthand from representing TPS beneficiaries in the United States and from traveling through TPS countries in connection with the lawsuit my organization, Lawyers for Civil Rights, filed in Boston against President Trump to save TPS on behalf of Salvadoran immigrants. TPS gives recipients living in the United States the ability to come out of the shadows where so many immigrants linger to avoid detection and deportation. With TPS, Salvadorans have the opportunity to live and work safely in the United States. The power of work authorization alone cannot be overstated: people can secure better paying jobs that dramatically improve their quality of life. Many TPS recipients have been able to buy their own homes and start their own businesses.

The benefits that flow from TPS are not just material. TPS also provides dignity. For example, it allows recipients to request a travel permit to visit aging and ailing family members in El Salvador. It is dignifying to be able to see loved ones.

The Trump Administration’s planned termination of TPS is highly disturbing. It will destabilize Salvadoran families who have lived, worked, and raised children in the United States for nearly two decades. People will be stripped of their humanity. We are starting to see the first wave of indignity: drivers’ licenses tied to TPS are at risk of being revoked. If work authorization and immigration protections end, Salvadorans will be terminated from work en masse. They will be vulnerable to being detained and deported by immigration officials.

El Salvador stands to lose too. Experts estimate that over 80% of TPS beneficiaries send remittances back to their extended family members in El Salvador, up to $600 million annually. The Salvadoran economy relies on this steady flow of remittances – much of which will dry up as TPS expires. And if TPS is terminated and El Salvador is faced with the prospect of receiving back hundreds of thousands of returned Salvadorans, this will present significant challenges for the country’s developing economy and infrastructure.

My organization’s lawsuit to stop the termination of TPS is now pending in federal court in Boston. To win this case, we will need all the help we can get. I have three suggestions for how the Bukele Administration can help in this effort:

First, we need the Bukele Administration to commit to transparency and accessibility. The government should immediately release data to the public about the social and economic impact of terminating TPS. This effort can be amplified using the Salvadoran consulates to create a network for information and resources dissemination. This will help raise awareness in El Salvador and the United States about the harms associated with TPS termination. The more people in El Salvador and the United States hear about TPS – especially from government authorities – the better. This alone can go a long way towards preventing a humanitarian crisis.

Second, the government can also work with think tanks and universities in El Salvador to develop talking points and strategic communications for Salvadoran business leaders, diplomats, and academics who may interface with the Chamber of Commerce, Congress, and the U.S. Embassy. The more we are all on the same page – across political lines – about the need to keep TPS alive, the better.

Finally, the Bukele Administration can file a legal brief in our case in Boston. Other Latin American governments have availed themselves of legal opportunities to advocate for their nationals in the United States. For example, the Mexican government filed an amicus curiae (“friend-of-the-court”) brief in a lawsuit brought to stop anti-immigrant laws passed by the state of Arizona. This provides a good blueprint for the Salvadoran government. President Bukele can follow in these footsteps by formally filing a brief in our case in support of his citizens abroad.

TPS is not politically controversial. Advocating for TPS recipients is a win-win scenario. Affected people – their neighbors, and their friends – will take notice. This can pay back political dividends. Coming out in front of this will also help anchor the new Salvadoran government as a leader in Central America at a time when people are tired of politicians who do not deliver concrete results. Let’s join forces not just to talk about the need for preserving TPS, but to help find viable solutions for our people.

Lawyers for Civil Rights filed the first lawsuits in the country against the Trump Administration to protect sanctuary cities; to save TPS on behalf of Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants; and to block immigration arrests in courthouses. Learn more about our courageous clients featured in the Boston Globe and WBUR.

Check out our groundbreaking report documenting conditions in TPS countries.