On December 18, the United Nations-recognized International Migrants’ Day, people in El Salvador woke up to read a powerful declaration of solidarity from U.S. and international organizations in two prominent newspapers, La Prensa Grafica and the Diario Co-Latino.
Massachusetts Peace Action joined over 70 labor, religious, student, immigrant rights and solidarity groups who signed an open letter to the family members of Salvadoran immigrants in the United States and the population at large to declare their commitment to continuing the fight for immigrant rights in the United States in a time of heightened aggression from the Trump Administration (Read the English translation here).
The Department of Homeland Security must decide in early January whether or not to renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants. TPS was created as part of the 1990 Immigration Act to protect people from being deported to countries suffering from civil war, the aftermath of natural disaster, or other emergencies. Salvadorans make up over 60% of the population with TPS due to the high number of people who were displaced following a civil war in which U.S.-backed forces killed over 75,000 civilians.
After years of continuous renewal under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the Trump Administration recently sent shock waves through the region by canceling TPS for Haiti and Nicaragua.
“People in El Salvador are understandably experiencing a great deal of fear and uncertainty given these inhumane decisions,” said Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). “We wanted to make sure people knew that there is a lot of support here in the United States for Salvadoran immigrants, including from many Members of Congress, despite the messages they are getting from the White House, and that we will keep fighting.”
In the letter, the organizations vowed to continue pressuring the Trump Administration to renew the TPS designation for El Salvador and to push Congress to approve legislation to create a pathway to citizenship not only for TPS beneficiaries and DACA recipients but also for the approximately 11 million immigrants in the United States who currently unable to adjust their status.
The letter also counters claims by right-wing politicians in El Salvador that the leftist government headed by President Salvador Sánchez Cerén is to blame for the Trump’s decision to cancel Obama-era policies including DACA and the Central America Minors program, and worries about TPS.
“As experts in this field, we wish to clarify that the Administration’s changes in immigration policy represent an attack on all immigrants and have nothing to do with the political orientation of the governments in their country of origin,” wrote the organizations. “It is painfully clear to us, as it has been since the early days of Trump’s campaign, that this Administration’s immigration policies are driven by xenophobia and racism. This reality requires us all to redouble our efforts to challenge these deep social harms.”
The organizations called on U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes to ensure that the Salvadoran people have accurate information. According to Stoumbelis, “The right-wing in El Salvador is shamefully trying to make TPS an electoral issue. If the Ambassador doesn’t speak out to counter false claims, then we have to wonder why.”