In a piece for La Opinion, Maria Pena covers the letter penned by evangelical leaders, which urged the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans.
The piece in its entirety can be accessed here and America’s Voice Education Fund’s full English translation is below:
This Thursday conservative evangelical leaders urged the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to extend the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans— the decision to extend or terminate the program is expected to be announced on Monday— to give Congress time to reform the program.
In a letter sent today, leaders from the Evangelical Immigration Table stated that while it is necessary to reform the immigration relief program created by Congress in 1990, the process will require time and an extension of TPS would keep families from being separated.
The missive was sent four days before Nielson, following a series of consultations, will announce her decision regarding TPS, a program that currently protects beneficiaries from deportation and provides work permits for roughly 195,000 Salvadorans.
“Our concern is driven by our Christian faith and our commitment to the Scriptures, which speak clearly and frequently to God’s concern for those who are vulnerable, specifically including immigrants and the poor,” the letter stated.
The end of TPS for Salvadorans without a permanent legislative solution from Congress not only would separate Salvadoran families in the United States. The decision would also affect El Salvador, which faces severe violence and poverty issues, as it would be able to absorb and integrate such a large groups of returnees, the leaders of faith warned in the letter.
Congress established TPS in 1990 to help undocumented immigrants that could not return to their countries of origin due to natural disasters, civil conflicts or other extraordinary circumstances.
Currently there are nearly 320,000 immigrants from 10 countries in the program, which has been extended several times throughout the years. The Trump Administration has started to dismantle it on the grounds that the current situation of certain countries no longer justifies an extension.
The leaders of faith contend that while undocumented Salvadorans received TPS as a result of the 2001 earthquakes, over the last few years El Salvador has been in competition with neighboring Honduras for the highest rate of civilian homicides in the world, in addition to high rates of unemployment and underemployment.
“A sudden insertion of residents who have lived abroad for many years” would harm “the poorest of the poor” in a country that is ill-prepared to receive them, they stated in the letter.
The coalition also echoed the Salvadoran government’s and several civilian groups’ argument regarding TPS beneficiaries’ contributions to the national economy, including paying roughly $4.8 billion in Social Security and Medicare taxes over the past decade and workforce participation in critical sectors of the economy.
While the Salvadoran government has conducted a massive campaign throughout 2017 to persuade the Trump Administration to extend TPS— Prime Minister Hugo Martinez has participated in numerous interviews to this newspaper during each visit to Washington— they have also started internal negotiations to implement tax relief and reinsertion programs for the expected returnees.
Yesterday a group of 19 bipartisan mayors and local leaders known as “Cities in Action” also urged TPS renewal for Salvadorans, which are largely concentrated in states like California, Texas, and Florida.