How Trump Is Splitting Up Salvadoran-American Families

Marelyn Arevalo is afraid. The 22-year-old paralegal has lived in the Boston area since she was 5, when her parents brought her to the United States from their native El Salvador. But thanks to a recent move by the Trump administration, her family could be torn apart and forced to return to a violent country they barely know.

Like more than 220,000 other Salvadorans, Arevalo and her parents have been allowed to live and work in the U.S. because they qualify for Temporary Protected Status. The U.S. started offering TPS to Salvadorans in 2001 after devastating earthquakes made it too dangerous for them to return home. Congress is currently considering a plan to allow at least some families like the Arevalos to stay in the U.S., but the proposal is reportedly what prompted Trump’s comment about the U.S. accepting too many immigrants from “shithole” countries. Now it’s unclear if Trump would approve any TPS fix.

Immigrants aren’t the only ones affected by Trump’s decision: More than 193,000 kids have been born in the U.S. to Salvadoran parents with TPS, according to the Center for Migration Studies. Arevalo has three younger siblings who are U.S. citizens, and now the family faces two options: They can split up, or move together to a country where gang violence has caused one of the world’s highest murder rates. Arevalo doesn’t want to go back to El Salvador.

“There’s no future for us,” she said. “There is the chance that I’ll come home and my parents or my siblings could be shot dead. The whole time I’ve been in the U.S., I’ve never had to feel that fear.”

Arevalo works at an immigration law office in East Boston, an area with a large Salvadoran population and one of the highest concentrations of TPS recipients in the country. VICE News visited Arevalo there as she and her family faced their uncertain future after the announcement.

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Salvadorans Speak Out Amid Deportation Fears

Thousands of Salvadoran nationals across the country fear deportation amid news that the Trump administration plans to end the temporary assistance program known as TPS. The AP spoke to a group of them in Houston and Los Angeles Tuesday. (Jan. 8)

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Thousands May Be Deported After Trump’s DHS Let This Program Expire (HBO)

Monday night, the Department of Homeland Security revoked Temporary Protected Status for close to five thousand Nicaraguans who have been living in the U.S. since 1998, meaning they’ll be eligible for deportation in just over a year.

More than 80,000 Hondurans protected under the same law find their own legal status in limbo, as DHS did not come to a decision on whether to end their designation. Instead, their protection from deportation was automatically extended for six months while Acting Secretary Elaine Duke deliberates over their fate.

Temporary Protected Status, or T.P.S., is supposed to prevent foreign nationals in the U.S. from being deported when a crisis like a natural disaster or civil war has broken out in their home countries. In some cases, it’s allowed people to stay in the U.S. long after the crisis has ended. Hondurans and Nicaraguans, for example, have benefited from the status since 1998, when Hurricane Mitch tore through Central America. That means they’ve been living here for at least 20 years.

TPS was meant to be a humanitarian response to crisis, but has evolved into a semi-permanent legal limbo for over 400,000 people. Decisions are approaching for over Haitians and Salvadorans also protected under the program. After Monday’s decision, many fear these protections won’t last much longer.

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