Donald Trump's misguided war on "bad hombres" is causing a lot of collateral damage.
Over the past three months, the Trump administration has targeted 250,000 law-abiding, tax-paying immigrants by stripping them of their legal status and turning them into the undocumented immigrants of tomorrow.
By canceling the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a quarter million Nicaraguans, Haitians, Sudanese, and Salvadorans, Trump is making the undocumented immigrant problem even worse in this country. And that's not even counting the 800,000 immigrants affected by Trump's decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
"This administration has now taken away lawful status from more than one million people, forcing them to live in the shadows or return to countries that are unstable and dangerous," Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) said in a statement. McCarthy called Trump's decision "reckless" and "inhumane."
The decision on Monday to cancel TPS for some 195,000 Salvadorans is particularly cruel. Similar to the Nicaraguans, whose TPS was terminated in November, many of the Salvadoran immigrants came to the U.S. as young children— in some cases nearly two decades ago. The U.S. is the only country many of them have ever known.
By ripping apart communities, families, and lives, the Trump administration will needlessly imperil the lives and well-being of thousands of people who get deported to gang-ravaged El Salvador, increasing the emigration push factor.
"The hardline decision doesn’t accomplish anything beyond energizing Trump's narrow political base," says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. "It is largely self defeating and heartless, contrary to longstanding U.S. values and interest in Central American stability."
The mass deportation of Salvadorans will also deliver a serious blow to El Salvador's vulnerable economy, which leans heavily on the $4.5 billion in remittances sent home each year by family members living abroad.
"The economic hit will be double— not just a need for El Salvador to create additional jobs for returning citizens, but also a potential sharp reduction in remittances," says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas. "The U.S. economy will also suffer, particularly in construction and the service sector. Those Salvadorans who do not return will be forced into the underground economy, thus increasing the problem of illegal immigration overnight."
The Salvadoran government estimates that upwards of 50% of Salvadorans with TPS could be eligible to apply for permanent residency in the U.S., requiring an organizational campaign of herculean proportions by El Salvador's consulates across the U.S.
Still, that leaves some 100,000 Salvadorans without a Plan B legal alternative who will now face deportation after September 2019.
To put that number in perspective, 20,538 Salvadorans were removed from the U.S. in 2016, according to ICE. El Salvador—along with Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras— has long been a leading country of origin for immigrant removals from the U.S. Even so, deporting all the TPS overstays next year would represent an unthinkable five-fold increase in Salvadoran removals.
The last time El Salvador saw a wave of mass deportation on that scale that, it helped the MS-13 grow from a local California gang into the transnational monster that it is today. Similarly, the mass removal of Salvadorans would trigger a chain of events that would likely lead to increased emigration to the United States—one that Trump's border wall posturing won't be able to stop.
As with most things, Trump is tripping over his own ignorance and racism in an attempt to impose his myopic "America First" agenda. Once again, the president is confusing stupid with tough. He's playing to the cheers of his "forgotten-man" base and making the United States a worse place in the process.