Trump’s decision that would deport Salvadorans makes little sense, Pittsburgh-area immigration experts say |

Trump’s decision that would deport Salvadorans makes little sense, Pittsburgh-area immigration experts say

Bob Bauder
U.S. President Donald Trump
Chart showing immigration growth from El Salvador to the U.S.

Pittsburgh-area immigrant advocacy groups on Monday described the Trump administration’s decision to end protected status and potentially deport as many as 200,000 El Salvadorans as cruel, illogical and bad for the country.

They noted that people from El Salvador tend to have jobs and own homes and many have children who are U.S. citizens.

“These folks, they have legal status,” said Sister Janice Vanderneck, director of civic engagement for Casa San Jose, a Beechview Latino support group. “They’re working. Some of them are homeowners. Doesn’t this fly in the face of saying we want to welcome lawful immigrants?”

The Department of Homeland Security announced plans to the end of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans who were legally admitted into the United States after two devastating earthquakes in 2001. The termination takes effect Sept. 9, 2019, which officials noted is an 18-month delay. The Trump administration has previously announced plans to, or the possibility of, ending protected status for Haitians, Sudanese and Nicaraguans.

Federal officials said El Salvador has recovered from the earthquakes and the program is no longer necessary.

“Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years. The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen said in a statement.

Immigration support groups said conditions in El Salvador remain dire. The country is rife with poverty, crime and gang violence, and the government of El Salvador can do little to protect those who would return, they said.

“It is known as one of the murder capitals of the world and has a number of challenges,” said Andrew Wood, an Aspinwall immigration attorney and chairman of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

He said Salvadorans who have lived in the United States are often extortion targets for gangs and their children are subject to gang recruitment.

He said deportation would not only put them in harm’s way, but also tear apart their families. About 193,000 children have at least one parent in the United States under Temporary Protected Status.

“It’s estimated if they were here they could contribute $164 billion in (gross domestic product) over next decade,” Wood said. “It’s cruel. It’s illogical. If one of the primary goals of reforming immigration is to do what is best for our country … then this doesn’t make any sense.”

About 285,161 people born in Latin America, including 7,767 Salvadorans, lived in Pennsylvania in 2016, according to Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. It was unclear how many live in the Pittsburgh region or how many might be deported.

“There are definitely El Salvadorans here, and there will also be individuals who will be affected by this,” said Betty Cruz, director of the Lawrenceville-based Change Agency.

Cruz, Pittsburgh’s former deputy chief of special initiatives — including pro-immigration policies enacted by Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration — said the announcement is sending shock waves through the city’s immigrant population.

“There’s been a constant drum of who’s going to be next, basically,” Cruz said. “It sends a chilling effect across all communities who are paying attention to how their neighbors are being treated. Knowing that 200,000 of them are going to be at risk, then that sends a message of fear and uncertainty to everyone.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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