The Trump administration’s decision to end immigration protections for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the United States will have a crushing impact on the lives of people who have called America their home for more than a decade, if not longer. But the reverberations of the move to end the program, known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will also have a devastating effect on El Salvador, the tiny Central American country that has struggled to stay afloat in relentlessly stormy socioeconomic and geopolitical conditions. The end of TPS could even gradually turn El Salvador into a failed state, a development that would create new troubles for the United States.
In its announcement terminating TPS this week, which has been in place since a series of earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that “the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist.” The status has been renewable every 18 months since it was granted by the George W. Bush administration. As many as 250,000 Salvadorans have been living and working legally in the U.S. under TPS, many having arrived long before the program started. In addition, they are parents to an estimated 193,000 children who are U.S. citizens.
The 2001 earthquakes were just one of the many misfortunes afflicting El Salvador. For the affected individuals, who are now required to leave by 2019, the Trump administration’s decision is a calamity, not only because of the total disruption to their lives, but also because it forces them to move back to a chaotic country many of them barely know, where jobs are scarce and security is elusive.