Salvadorans Fear Family Separation after TPS Suspension

Long Island cook Hugo Rodríguez. Salvadorans fear that their families will be separated when TPS comes to an end. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

[Editor’s update: Catholic Charities, El Diario, Radio WADO 1280 and Noticias Univision 41 will run a phone bank on Thursday Jan. 11 and Friday Jan. 12 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to answer questions about Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The open telephone line is: 1-800-566-7636. On Feb. 3, Mónica R. Martínez, legislator of the 9th district in Suffolk County, will run a forum on TPS from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel. 110 Motor Parkway, Happauge, NY.]

Fear. That was the raw feeling that took over Hugo Rodríguez, a Salvadoran Long Island resident, when he learned that the Department of Homeland Security decided on Monday not to renew the temporary protected status (TPS) for more than 250,000 of his compatriots benefiting from the program across the nation. [Editor’s note: Estimates of the number who will be affected vary.]

Rodríguez, 43, thought about the future of his two teenage U.S.-born children and about their dream of going to college. The father said that he was unable to hold back the tears when he imagined his whole life crumbling down, as the last thing he wants is to see his family split up.

“The future of my family is in jeopardy. Our whole life is in the United States, and this is my children’s country. I migrated here 17 years ago. I have worked hard. I started with nothing and, little by little, I have thrived without asking for public assistance. I don’t know El Salvador. I would go back empty-handed. My assets are here,” said Rodríguez, a cook at the popular Peter Luger Steak House, in Great Neck, Long Island.

With the cancellation of TPS, the program’s beneficiaries have been given until September 2019 to leave the country, a period that only increases the anxiety felt by Rodríguez and other Salvadoran heads of household who have U.S.-born children in our area.

According to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) 15,000 TPS beneficiaries live in New York City, of whom 4,200 are Salvadoran. The agency estimates that in our area, 8,000 children have parents who are recipients of TPS.

There are 30,000 TPS beneficiaries residing in New York state, including 16,200 Salvadorans. Activists estimate that the largest concentration lives in Suffolk County, Long Island.

I am not a burden”

“All we can do is fight for the next 18 months. If you fight for something, you can get it. I am showing the country who I am. I am a father, not a number. All I am asking for is the opportunity to work and live in peace,” he said. “I am not a gang member. I am not a criminal. When I arrived in this country, I started out washing dishes. Now, I am a cook earning $22 an hour. I am not a burden for the government.”

Rodríguez, who has a 17-year-old son who is about to enroll in college and a 15-year-old daughter who dreams of becoming a teacher, hopes that his voice and that of his compatriots will be heard in Congress, as returning to Usulután is not an option for this father and his family.

Minda Hernández still remembers the feeling of peace and hope that filled her heart when she stepped on U.S. soil 20 years ago, as a beneficiary of TPS. Back in her native country, the mother had survived the bloodiest violence. For that reason, escaping El Salvador was a matter of life or death for her and her family.

“I was riding on the train today to come here and defend TPS, when my sister called me to tell me that Congress had ended the program. I felt a chill go up and down my spine and a sense of uncertainty fall on my shoulders. I thought about my 16-year-old son. He is a U.S. citizen. El Salvador is not his country. There is no life for him there,” said Minda, who works in maintenance at a shopping center in Huntington, Long Island.

Minda and her husband, both beneficiaries of TPS, own their home. That was their “American dream.” The mother said that they work hard to promptly make their over $2,000 monthly mortgage payments and that they do it all for their son.

“He is our hope. We have nothing else to hold on to,” said Minda in a sad tone. “For the love of God, have a heart! It is our families who are in limbo now.”

Families at risk

 New York activists said in a press conference on Monday that the cancellation of TPS will have a “catastrophic impact” on the Big Apple’s socioeconomic and immigration-related matters. The greatest concerns, said New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) Immigration Policy Director Anu Joshi, are the risk of deportation and familial separation.

“These families are at risk. The 18-month period is not enough for these parents to regularize their status and avoid being separated from their U.S.-born children,” said Joshi. “The social fabric of the country will severely suffer. TPS beneficiaries are fundamental members of our communities. The Trump administration is not anticipating this devastating scenario; it is not responsibly considering the harm that terminating the program will cause.”

Héctor Figueroa, president of union 32BJ, described the situation as “soulless,” adding that he fears the “destruction of immigrant families.”

“Ending TPS for 200,000 longtime U.S. residents and deporting them back to the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere is not just an affront to American values but a near-homicidal act,” said the union leader.

Beneficiaries of TPS in New York

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Each beneficiary of TPS contributes an average of $260,000 annually to New York’s economy.

TPS recipients in New York have the highest workforce participation rate, 82 percent, compared to the rest of the population, which has 65 percent.

Nearly 30 percent of the program’s beneficiaries work in the service industry, and 22 percent are independent contractors.

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  1. Pingback: – LI Businesses Feel the Pinch of End of TPS

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