Last week, President Donald Trump’s administration announced a cancellation of temporary protected status, or TPS, for people from El Salvador — a move that will eventually throw over 200,000 non-criminal legal residents into an undocumented status in the United States.
Previously announced TPS cancellations included Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. With the recent actions by the administration canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and now humanitarian programs like TPS, well over 1 million lives will be thrown into chaos without good cause. These are our neighbors living here legally, peacefully and productively. They have family members and employers who are U.S. citizens.
The disruption will be enormous. Lives will be altered forever and our country will be the worse off for it.
Once they’ve lost their legal status, will these people just return to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Haiti? Some may. Most won’t.
They have lived here legally, for decades in many cases. They aren’t criminals, because criminals are not approved for these legal programs, where their status is renewed periodically with background checks. Most are working and contributing to our economy. They pay taxes. They aren’t eligible for welfare.
Over 90 percent of DACA recipients — those brought here without authorization as children — are either in school or working in this country. They are embedded in our society with families and jobs. The administration’s action will make it more likely that they will just go underground and be added to the population of undocumented immigrants, without legal authority to work. This would also make them subject to removal and the harsh consequences of separation from family. This would make our communities less secure.
Sure, these programs were intended as temporary stopgap measures, humanitarian in nature. But some have gone on for decades now. And so we have a choice and a chance to do what is right: We can continue the chaos ordered by this administration, or we can find a more reasonable, humane solution with a path to a permanent legal status for long-term, non-criminal immigrants.
Congress has in the past considered various solutions for a path to legalization, but our representatives have not had the courage to take action.
I should make it clear: The Trump administration did not have to do what it did in canceling these programs. There was no economic or security-based justification for the action. It will not make us safer, and it doesn’t benefit the economy or our society.
Allowing hard-working, non-criminal immigrants with established ties to the U.S. to remain legally until a permanent solution can be found is no drain on our economy or our society. But to deport them now would clearly be a drain on our humanity.
Roger McCrummen has practiced U.S. immigration law for over 20 years at his McCrummen Immigration Law Group in North Kansas City.