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Citizenship for Salvadorans is right for the US

Citizenship for Salvadorans is right for the US
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The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that it would end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for approximately 200,000 Salvadorans. The decision was cruel but expected, as it fulfilled another element of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE’s anti-immigrant agenda. 

It is now up to the U.S. Congress to come to an agreement on immigration reform to present to a president who seems open to signing whatever bill reaches his desk. 

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Against all evidence, Trump has alleged that illegal immigrants are responsible for several million votes that prevented him from winning the popular vote in November 2016. These bad hombres are rapists and bringing crime to every corner of the country. They are taking advantage of “loopholes” in our asylum laws to game the system and settle here. Finally, illegal immigrants are unfairly depressing wages and taking jobs from hard-working Americans.

 

The president has poisoned political rhetoric, which makes it difficult for Americans to understand the reality of immigration in the United States, which is quite the opposite. 

There is no evidence of massive voter fraud. Crime across much of the country is at record lows and immigrants, both documented and undocumented, continue to commit crimes at rates lower than the rest of the population.

Many of those arriving at U.S. borders today are seeking asylum from extreme violence in their homes countries, especially those of the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, not because of lax U.S. immigration laws.

Finally, the overwhelming number of studies demonstrate the positive contributions that immigrants make to the U.S. economy and the need for greater immigration to overcome future challenges.

Congress must move to protect 200,000 Salvadorans who are now at risk of losing TPS when the last extension runs out in 2019. These people have resided in the U.S. ever since two devastating earthquakes struck that country 17 years ago. So most Salvadoran TPS recipients have lived in the U.S. for at least 20 years.

Approximately one-third own homes and 90 percent are active in the workforce. Salvadoran TPS recipients are parents to nearly 200,000 U.S. citizen children. Salvadorans and other TPS recipients are more actively engaged members of their communities than are immigrants without legal status. 

In my home state, for example, several hundred Salvadorans count among Pennsylvania’s 2,500 TPS recipients. These Pennsylvania residents have 2,100 U.S. citizen children and contribute an estimated $85 million to the state’s GDP each year. Salvadoran TPS recipients have succeeded in ways that we hope all migrants do.

These Salvadorans are still TPS recipients because they have done everything that the U.S. has asked of them. They have stayed out of legal trouble for 17 years. They have checked in with the government with every 12-18 month TPS extensions. They often pay hundreds of dollars with each extension. They have been vetted extensively.

Without immigration reform, there is no path to citizenship for Salvadoran TPS recipients and those of other nationalities.

I have traveled to El Salvador for the last two decades and have testified in several asylum cases for Salvadoran nationals. I can attest to the fact that conditions in El Salvador are worse today than when TPS was originally extended.

The Bush and Obama administrations recognized that political, economic, and social conditions in El Salvador would make the re-integration of these TPS recipients further destabilizing at the same time that the U.S. was investing hundreds of millions of dollars to improve conditions on the ground. Rescinding TPS would be counterproductive for the U.S. and for El Salvador.

Monday’s decision is consistent with the Trump administration’s strongly negative policies towards legal and illegal immigrants and in using vulnerable migrant populations as a bargaining chip to restrict future migrant populations from settling in the U.S.

After nearly two decades abiding by the conditions of TPS, Congress and the Trump administration must at a minimum return legal protection to 200,000 of our neighbors and, hopefully, a path to citizenship. It is in the interests of both the United States and El Salvador.

Michael EAllison is professor and chair of the political science department at The University of Scranton.