The next big battle over immigration looks to be not illegal immigration but sending back foreign nationals who are in America on the TPS program (“temporary protected status”).
Groups involved include Haitians, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, and first to be affected, over 200,000 Salvadorans who could be sent back to El Salvador in 2019. They were granted TPS entry to the US in 2001 after El Salvador suffered two devastating earthquakes. But critics of lax immigration enforcement complain that they’ve been allowed to extend their stays in 6-to-18-month increments until they’ve been here for 16 years with no end in sight, making a mockery of that whole “temporary protection” concept.
What seems like a pretty straightforward legal correction gets more complicated when you add in other factors: Opponents of sending them back argue that they’ve been here so long, they’ve had kids who are US citizens, and it would break up families. Also, while the earthquakes are long past, El Salvador has a weak economy and a high crime and murder rate and isn’t safe.
Immigration enforcement advocates counter that El Salvador has absorbed 39,000 repatriations in the past couple of years; that they knew it was a temporary, not permanent, status; and that their defenders seem more concerned about dangers to Salvadorans from gangs in El Salvador than they do about the danger to Americans from violent Salvadoran gangs here, some of which are reported to have thousands of members within miles of Washington, DC.
With elections looming this year, expect this thorny issue that deserves serious and thoughtful debate to be exploited and twisted into a black-and-white, “you hate immigrants/you love criminals” cartoon argument. At its root, the real problem is the way politicians rush to “solve” problems without giving any thought to the consequences. Or as Ronald Reagan said it so well decades ago: there’s nothing more permanent than a “temporary” government program.