El Salvadoran Expulsion an Injudicious Idea

Why the Rescinding of El Salvadoran TPS Is Not So Great

El Salvadorans protesting the removal of TPS.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

El Salvadorans protesting the removal of TPS.

Nathan Reich, Staff Writer

Recently President Donald Trump issued a decree that the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that protects many foreign nationals will be nullified.

Among the countries no longer included in the program is El Salvador, which is in fact the largest immigrant population living in the U.S. under TPS, and the third largest hispanic population.

The termination of the TPS makes sense. As the Department of Homeland and Security said, the conditions for which the TPS was originally permitted (three major earthquakes) are no longer a threat to El Salvadorans. “Damaged schools, hospitals and homes have been repaired since the earthquakes in El Salvador,” said an administration official in a Wall Street Journal article. In theory, it is high time for the TPS to be rescinded for many.

However, it is not as straightforward as that. First of all, El Salvador is by no means a safe country. Yes, the earthquakes that were ravaging the country 20 years ago are no longer an issue, and the majority of the damage caused by them has been repaired. However, El Salvador is currently the country with the world’s highest homicide rate, with approximately 65 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants. Compare this to the U.S.’s five for every 100,000, Mexico’s approximate 21 per 100,000, or Canada’s 1.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. Some of the countries with the next highest homicide rates are Venezuela and Honduras, with 62 and 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively.

Part of El Salvador’s incredibly high homicide rates is certainly due to the presence of the large and dangerous gangs which basically control the country. Considering it is the country with the world’s highest homicide rate, and the fact that it’s riddled with gangs, El Salvador is not exactly a “safe” country. Sending 200,000 people, who are well-off compared to those who are in the country, is not the best idea.

The country is so unsafe, in fact, that the U.S. Department of State “has assessed San Salvador as being a critical threat location.” In 2017, they issued a Travel Warning for El Salvador, because of its dangerously high homicide rates. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) posted that “Travelers should research recent crime trends when planning a trip. Rape rates are also up, reaching 330 [reported] rape cases in 2016. Visitors are advised to take precautions when transiting or visiting the downtown area of San Salvador,” on their website. And this is the country where we want to send 200,000 people, including women and children? Great idea, Mr. President.

Another consideration that the Trump administration may not be taking into account is the economic factors associated with sending 200,000 people to one country. These are people who have American jobs and who earn American wages, and we would be sending them to a country where nearly 40% of the population are below the World Bank’s estimated global poverty line ($1.90 a day). It just makes no sense.

Even people who are working for minimum wage in the U.S. would be considered middle-upper class in a country where the average monthly household income is about $660 in the urban areas and about $360 in the rural areas, according to El Salvador’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINEC). Compare this to the U.S. urban average of almost $55,000 and a rural average of over $52,000 dollars (U.S. Census Bureau). Even a single U.S. worker earning federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) would earn more than twenty times that of an entire urban household in El Salvador. He would earn more than 40 times that of a rural El Salvadoran household. This phenomenal difference in income would make the returning El Salvadorans prime targets for gangs and other robbers.

We also need to take into account the employment factor involved in all this. With nearly 200,000 rich, bilingual, and relatively skilled (compared to those already there) workers entering the country, the workers who already have jobs may be displaced by those more skilled coming in from the U.S. This, in turn, would cause phenomenal levels of unemployment in a country where more than 40% of the people are already underemployed and nearly 66% are employed in the informal sector. This could result in an increase in illegal immigration to the U.S. So basically, getting rid of these bilingual, relatively skilled workers who understand the U.S. and who have been here for more than 20 years will result in more monolingual people who know very little about the U.S. entering the country illegally.

Furthermore, the World Bank estimates that more than 17% of El Salvador’s GDP is sourced from friends and family living and working in the U.S. That’s approximately $4.5 billion that the El Salvador economy will lose if, and when, the El Salvadorans return to their “home” country.

Not only do these remittances affect individual people and families, but they also have an impact on the economy as a whole. In fact, according to Cecilia Menjivar, the co-director of the Center for Migration Research at the University of Kansas, the remittances “reach almost all sectors of the economy in one way or another.” One example: the housing market. “Construction companies, real estate businesses, they sell homes to immigrants who are here, especially TPS holders,” said Menjivar in an interview on NPR.

Now let us turn from the economic repercussions to more emotional consequences. Of course, first and foremost of these is the fact that the El Salvadoran immigrants who are being forced to leave will have to decide whether to bring their children with them or not. Their children who were born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens, and will therefore be permitted to stay in the country. These poor parents have to choose whether they take their children with them to a country practically controlled by gangs where murder and rape run rampant, or whether they leave them here with friends or family while they return to this “home sweet home” of theirs where they haven’t lived for nearly 20 years. Or, they can take option “C”: stay in the U.S. illegally, and run the risk of being deported to keep their families together in a relatively safe place.

So let’s see: should we break up families and send hardworking, bilingual people back to a country they hardly know where the chances that they will be robbed, raped, murdered, or all of the above are extremely high? Or should we find a way to let them gain citizenship (maybe with a steep “entrance fee” after a thorough background check?) and keep these hardworking, practically American people here, with their families, where they contribute to not just one, but two countries’ economies? Hm, let me think about that one.