'This is our home,' Salvadorans in Boston speak out after Trump administration ended protected status for thousands

Publisher: 
MassLive.com
Author: 
Kristin LaFratta
Publication Date: 
January 10, 2018

I really like going around and exploring the city,” says Pineda, 15 years old. “Seeing what I can take pictures of.”

Pineda, and his little brother, Alexander, are United States citizens. His mother, Elsa, is not. Elsa Pineda received Temporary Protected Status in the U.S. in 2001, after two horrific earthquakes struck El Salvador. She is one of thousands of Salvadorans who were granted the right to live and work legally in America. 

On Monday, President Donald Trump’s administration announced the termination of TPS, an immigration policy that allowed hundreds of thousands of people from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras to come to the United States. Many of the program’s beneficiaries came here and, over a period of 17 years, created new lives and families. Now, the federal government is telling TPS recipients they must leave.

It’s very scary for us,” Charles Pineda says after the dust had settled at a rally in Boston City Hall on Wednesday. Advocates from Latino community advocacy group Centro Presente held the event, inviting politicians, activists and people with very personal and distressing stories to speak in support of TPS.

It’s not really fair either. This is our home,” Pineda says. “We know nothing else. My little brother, all he’s ever seen is the U.S.”

At the rally Wednesday, several Boston city councilors voiced support alongside Mayor Marty Walsh, all of whom vowed to support TPS holders and pressure Congress to rethink the policy reversal.

Of all the deeply troubling things that have happened since the president took office, this is one of the most hypocritical,” Mayor Walsh said on Wednesday. “And it’s probably the most un-American.” 

Walsh accused members of the Trump administration of forgetting their own ancestral roots, saying their family names would not be plastered on buildings and hotels had the government chosen to send their ancestors back. Walsh added that when Boston hosts the Conference of Mayors Annual meeting this June, his office intends to highlight that Boston is an immigrant city.

Temporary Protected Status has benefitted Salvadorans more than any other group. In Massachusetts, there are roughly 12,000 TPS recipients and 6,000 Salvadorans. Boston is home to 2,000 of those Salvadorans. Many live in East Boston, a neighborhood that has historically been home to immigrant populations.

Come to East Boston. Go to Chelsea,” Patricia Montes, the executive director of Centro Presente, said fervently, addressing politicians following the mayor’s speech on Wednesday. “Please don’t come to see us only when we are facing a crisis. Come to see us every single day.”

Elmer Vivas, a U.S. citizen and sophomore at Harvard University studying sociology, also spoke. Vivas’s mother, too, is a TPS holder from El Salvador. His father became a U.S. citizen after overcoming what Vivas described as massive payments and government hurdles.

They’ve had to fight to clean other people’s offices, clean other people’s hotel rooms, pick up other people’s trash. They’ve done it with pride,” Vivas said, of his parents. Now, he said, the policy reversal would force his mother to choose whether to entirely uproot, or live life as a criminal in America.  

According to immigration lawyers, TPS beneficiaries pay taxes and cannot have a criminal conviction, or else they would be ineligible to receive the protected status. One immigration lawyer at Wednesday’s rally said he receives phone calls every day from families, some of whom say their children fear they will be deported.

Charles Pineda said his mother just recently purchased a home in Chelsea. He fears going back to El Salvador with his family, reciting nightmarish stories of children who disappear in the night, sometimes kidnapped for ransom.

My mom has worked here. She’s given up a lot of time and energy to provide for us,” Pineda says after the city hall event. “[The rally] made me feel very proud that there’s this backing for our people, that people care. People want us to stay, people know our struggle.”

 

 

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