Immigrant advocates criticized a decision by the Trump administration to end a program that has allowed about 200,000 people from El Salvador to live and work in the United States for nearly two decades.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Jan. 8 that conditions caused by 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador have improved sufficiently to end Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans living in the U.S. Individuals affected by the policy reversal have 18 months to obtain a green card or risk deportation beginning in September 2019.
Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, criticized the decision as “unjust.”
“Over 200,000 Salvadorans have created new lives for themselves in the United States, starting families, forming businesses and worshipping with us,” said Butler, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). “Now they are at risk of deportation from an administration in thrall to white supremacist fear.
“As a pastor, my faith propels me to call out this moral failure and call all Americans to build a society of welcome,” Butler said. “We are calling on the Trump Administration to immediately provide permanent legal status for the Salvadorans and other immigrant communities.”
In October, Faith in Public Life joined Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., in a press conference urging the White House not to apply President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) to the TPS program as well.
Just last week nearly 400 faith leaders — among them Calvary Baptist Church co-pastor Maria Swearingen and Rubén Ortiz, Latino field coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship — signed a letter asking the White House to extend TPS for El Salvador for at least another 18 months.
“We pray that you may find compassion and urge you to extend El Salvador’s TPS designation for at least another 18 months, as it currently does not have the infrastructure or institutions to adequately handle the return of its nationals,” the clergy pleaded. “Terminating TPS for El Salvador would separate families, negatively impact regional security, and have negative economic and humanitarian consequences in El Salvador and the United States.”
“As people of faith, we implore you to think about the moral imperative to love our neighbor, welcome the sojourner, and care for the most vulnerable among us,” the letter said in part.
Swearingen called the administration’s decision not to renew El Salvador’s TPS designation “deplorable.”
“Last night, I held sacred space with a longtime member of our congregation who is a TPS recipient from El Salvador,” the pastor said in an e-mail Tuesday evening. “She is also the chair of our stewardship committee, always helps the children get in costume for our annual Christmas nativity service, and never fails to give me an encouraging word every Sunday. Last night as we sat in the church office together, she shared her heartbreak over imagining her last Christmas in the United States, her last Sunday in worship at Calvary, and her last day of work at a job she has held for 11 years.”
“She has contributed to the social and moral fabric of this country for a decade and a half, has built a beautiful, generous, and fruitful life here, and now she is forced to watch racist and unreasoned policies threaten to take it all away,” Swearingen said.