Up to 250,000 Salvadorans Face Deportation Nightmare After Trump TPS Decision
President Trump is meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House today over his offer to protect the nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers in exchange for funding to build a border wall. The meeting comes one day after the Trump administration announced it is ending the temporary protected status for as many as 250,000 Salvadorans who have been living in U.S. since 2001. The temporary protected status, known as TPS, had given the Salvadorans legal permission to live and work in the United States. It was enacted in 2001 after a devastating pair of earthquakes hit El Salvador. The Trump administration has already said it will end temporary protected status for tens of thousands of Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants living in the United States. For more, we speak with a Stony Brook University student named Rodman, who is a member of Make the Road New York. He is a U.S. citizen whose parents are Salvadoran TPS recipients. He asked us not to use his last name to protect his family. We also speak with Anu Joshi, immigration policy director at the New York Immigration Coalition.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to look at the battle over immigration in Washington. President Trump is meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House today over his offer to protect the nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers in exchange for $18 billion to build a border wall. The meeting comes one day after the Trump administration announced it’s ending the temporary protected status for as many as 250,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the U.S. since 2001. The temporary status, known as TPS, had given the Salvadorans legal permission to live and work in the United States, enacted in 2001 after a devastating pair of earthquakes hit El Salvador. The announcement sparked immediate protest outside the White House and in several cities. Here in New York, Salvadoran TPS recipient Urania Reyes spoke at a news conference.
URANIA REYES: [translated] We are begging to our President Trump and to the public to stand up and ask for our permanent—not temporary—legalization. We have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years, and they didn’t give us any permanent status. I think we are honorable people. We do the work other people don’t want to do. We earn very little money. We pay for housing and taxes and school for the children—for my three children—and they go to the school. And today I feel very sad, because they want to take the TPS from us.
The people who brought our children here with us and who brought them here when they were young, it’s not their fault. It’s our fault. We were looking for an improvement after our country was destroyed by war. And after that, in 2001, it was destroyed by the earthquake, on January 13th, 2001. I hope they give us legal status. That’s what we are asking. We are honorable people, worthy of this country. And this country is our country, because we spend our lives here.
AMY GOODMAN: The Trump administration has already said it will end temporary protected status for tens of thousands of Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants living in the U.S.
For more, we’re joined now by two guests. Rodman is a student at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York, a member of Make the Road New York. He’s a U.S. citizen whose parents are Salvadoran temporary protected status recipients. He asked us not to use his last name, to protect his family. And we’re joined by Anu Joshi, who is immigration policy director at the New York Immigration Coalition.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Rodman, let’s begin with you. Tell us about your family. What will happen? Were you surprised by President Trump’s announcement yesterday?
RODMAN: So, well, thank you so much for having me on your program. I am the son of two immigrant parents from El Salvador. My mom and my dad both have TPS. They’ve been living on Long Island for the past 25 years. My parents, my two sisters and me, we consider ourselves all to be Long Islanders, because that’s where our home is. That’s where we have been going to church, to school. Everyone we know, you know, is from Long Island.
So, the news that we received—the announcement yesterday was absolutely devastating. I think we were kind of anticipating it. So, for the past few months, we’ve been living in a state of fear and anxiety. But actually hearing the news, just it’s a nightmare for us.
AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean?
RODMAN: To us, it means that our sense of protection, our sense of security, all of that is going to vanish.
AMY GOODMAN: Your parents would be sent back in 18 months?
RODMAN: That risk is—it’s very possible. It’s very possible that my two parents, who have been living here since the early 1990s, who have been working and contributing here, on Long Island—it’s very possible that they are going to be sent back to a country that they haven’t visited in over 20 years.
AMY GOODMAN: So what would happen to the three of you? You’re all U.S. citizens?
RODMAN: Yes. So, I was born here. So was my—my two sisters were also born here. We depend so much on our parents, for not only financial support, but also emotional support. I think a lot of the things that me and my sisters are able to accomplish in life, whether it’s school or work, it’s because of all the support that our parents have given us. And I am very thankful for not only all the sacrifices that they’ve made, but also the examples that they’ve set for us. They are my role models. And I think they’ve given us the tools that makes us become very responsible.
AMY GOODMAN: And temporary protected status was extended to your parents because of the earthquakes, because of what happened in El Salvador?
RODMAN: Yeah. So, my two parents, they left in early 1990s, before the earthquake. But they left during the civil war. So they were escaping the civil war. El Salvador is a country where there’s no real job opportunities, where there’s no real stability and where there’s corruption. So, they escaped in the early 1990s. And in 2001, there was a devastating earthquake that devastated the entire country. So, they came to this country seeking stability, seeking a better future for themselves and their family, pursuing the American dream. And to them, the American dream is that me and my two sisters would be able to get an education and move ahead in life.
AMY GOODMAN: Anu Joshi, can you talk about what this means for 250,000 people? And then we’ve got to extend the number by what? Another 200,000, the American kids, like Rodman?
ANU JOSHI: Mm-hmm, that’s exactly right. So, as you mentioned, this administration already eliminated TPS for Sudan, Nicaragua and Haiti, Haiti being the next largest population at 50,000, many of whom live here in New York.
But for the people like Rodman’s parents and hundreds of thousands of people like Rodman’s parents across the country, this means that, in 18 months, the businesses that they’ve started are going to shutter. The companies where they work are going to lose employees. The places, the federal government, the states, the local taxes they pay are no longer going to be paid. The mortgages they own, the houses that they own—almost a third of Salvadorans with TPS own their home or have a mortgage—are not going to be paid. And these people, who are completely integrated into American society, have been here for over two decades, many of them, are going to be pushed into the shadows.
And it’s really unconscionable, what this administration is doing. And I think, with these four decisions and the attack and termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, we’ve seen that this administration is not—is really pursuing an aggressive, extremist attack on immigrants and all communities of color.
AMY GOODMAN: Salvadorans have been major labor organizers, as well. Do you see this as an attack on the labor community?
ANU JOSHI: One hundred percent. Yesterday we had a press conference, and we had a SEIU 32BJ member, who is a housekeeper on Long Island, who has been a member for over 15 years. We had a cook from UNITE HERE, who has worked at the same restaurant for 17 years. And he’s worked his way up. He started as a dishwasher, and now he’s a cook. And he’s had TPS. He has two children. This is an attack on labor. This is an attack on working people. It’s also an attack on people who have started businesses and raised families.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Hugo RodrÃguez, a Salvadoran beneficiary of temporary protected status, who spoke at Monday’s news conference in New York.
HUGO RODRÃGUEZ: [translated] We have one foot here and the other in a republic, El Salvador. And even though my heart is always there in that country, for me, living here, as my predecessor said, is a matter of life and death, because we cannot go back to our country. There are a lot of compatriots that have tried it and have tried to start a business, to start a life there. And they haven’t been able to do it, because of the evil our country is suffering. … President Trump and the politicians do not know who the beneficiaries of temporary protected status are. We are not gang members. We are not criminals. We are people that, as the majority of the people who live here, we came following a dream, an American dream, a dream that, sadly, we cannot have in our countries, but it was possible here. We achieve it, thanks to our work.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response?
ANU JOSHI: I mean, I don’t understand how anyone could look at that and say that that’s someone that’s not contributing to our society. You know, everything that this administration is doing is not about keeping our country safe or making this country greater. It’s about making our country worse, by trying to push into the shadows—or worse, deport—people like Hugo, who are just, you know, raising their families and making a living.
AMY GOODMAN: Rodman, we’re not using your last name, to protect your family. But you mentioned the civil war, which often people do not refer to as a civil war in Salvador, because the studies shows overwhelmingly it was the U.S.-backed military government and paramilitaries that were killing off the majority of people, as happened in Nicaragua, the illegal war in Nicaragua, when it came to the Contras. The U.S. was not supposed to be supporting the Contras but was getting around various laws, like the Boland Amendment. Can you talk about this, as my colleague Juan GonzÃ¡lez wrote a book called Harvest of Empire, people fleeing, sadly, U.S.-connected violence in their countries, and then, when they get here, being told they have to go back?
ANU JOSHI: And to that point, the creation of the temporary protected status program was in response to the U.S. involvement in El Salvador in the early ’90s. And so, it was a recognition by our government that we had created a part of this problem, and we needed to provide safe haven. We needed to protect these people. We could not send them back into that violence.
And if you look at El Salvador as a country right now, it has the third-highest homicide rate in the world. It’s considered the most violent country that’s not currently in a war zone, by the United Nations. Seventeen percent of its GDP comes from remittances from the United States. And if you try to send or repatriate hundreds of thousands of people into a country where—has weak government institutions, where violence is rampant, where gangs are conscripting youth every day, it’s going to destabilize the region. And that’s not going to be good for the United States, either.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to put this in the larger context right now of what’s happening in the White House. You have President Trump meeting with Democrats and Republicans. And this is led—and this is not often the case—by the chief of staff, this meeting, General Kelly, General Kelly who, before being chief of staff of President Trump, was head of Department of Homeland Security and, before that, in charge of SOUTHCOM, Southern Command. Can you talk about the significance of Trump saying this weekend at Camp David that it is DACA and the wall, or no DACA?
ANU JOSHI: Well, and let’s be clear: He didn’t just say DACA and the wall. He also said, “And additional CBP agents and an end to the diversity”—
AMY GOODMAN: Customs and Border Patrol.
ANU JOSHI: Sorry, Customs and Border Patrol agents, end to the diversity visa, ending family reunification, which has been the cornerstone of our immigration policy for decades, since the 1960s. So, he laid out a laundry list of the most extremist anti-immigrant agenda, in exchange for 800,000 young people, you know, which is a situation that he created, when he terminated DACA in September. You know, we’re telling Senator Schumer, here in New York, and the Democrats in both sides of the House and the Senate that they need to stand strong against this, that this is a wish list that—it’s not a wish list at all. I don’t even know what it is. This is not in good faith.
AMY GOODMAN: And do you have confidence in the Democrats?
ANU JOSHI: Maybe. I hope so.
AMY GOODMAN: Rodman, is your university, Stony Brook, on Long Island, part of the State University of New York system, an esteemed university around the country, standing up for you and other students who have temporary protected status themselves or, in your case, your parents?
RODMAN: Yeah, so, a group of me and a group of students, we have started a club, trying to push our administrators from Stony Brook to adopt policies that would benefit students not only who have DACA, who are losing their DACA statuses every day, but also for parents, for students whose parents have TPS, because, for example, like I sometimes depend on my parents for financial support to pay my tuition. And once TPS is gone—
AMY GOODMAN: Sounds like that’s in New York’s interest.
RODMAN: It is, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: That your tuition is paid.
RODMAN: Yeah. We really depend on our administrators, but also our local and state representatives, to become advocates for us and to really push for legislation that’s going to benefit people like me and my family. I think that investing more money into ICE agents or having the local police department collaborate with immigration—I think it’s misguided. And if it’s—we need our representatives to really push for permanent legislation, like permanent residency for my parents. I think these—once you really invest in communities, like my community and my family, that’s one of the best ways that you can really uplift this country.
AMY GOODMAN: And how are Salvadorans in Long Island organizing?
RODMAN: OK, so, this news has affected everyone from where I come from on Long Island. Long Island has a large Salvadoran and also Haitian population. So, everyone is pretty much really in a state of panic. So, what people are doing is that they’re getting informed. I’m part of a community organization called Make the Road New York. We’re doing workshops. We’re holding Know Your Rights workshops. And we’re also telling, you know, people like me, like youth like me, who are citizens, that we have a lot of power. Once we share our stories, we can make a difference. And also, we have lots of voting power. So, it’s very important for us to get organized, to know our rights, you know, to stand up for our parents. Our parents have always been there for us, so it’s time now—it’s really urgent that we stand up for them.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Rodman, I hope soon to be able to say your whole name, but while you feel your family is vulnerable, we’ll stick with your first name. Rodman, a U.S. citizen, a student Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, Long Island, New York, whose parents are Salvadoran temporary protected status recipients. And Anu Joshi, immigration policy director at the New York Immigration Coalition.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a new Poor People’s March, an unusual coalition. We’ll be joined by the Reverend William Barber as well as an evangelical minister who worked for the segregationist presidential candidate, longtime Senato Strom Thurmond, now joining in a Poor People’s March. Stay with us.