Family Worries About Family Separation When Program Is Ended
TPS Expiration Dates:
El Salvador, 9/9/2019
Shannon Dooling for WBUR highlights the story of Irma Flores, a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder living in Massachusetts. Flores is just one hundreds of thousands TPS holders who are in jeopardy of being forcibly deported and separated from their families after their current legal status expires. She fears the day she could be sent back to violence-stricken El Salvador and separated from her daughter and grandchildren as result of the Trump administration’s decision to terminate the program.
Dooling’s account of Irma’s story is excerpted below:
Isabel Quintanilla is FaceTiming with her daughter, Irma Flores. This is the easiest way for the two to keep in touch. Quintanilla lives in El Salvador and hasn’t met her new great-grandson. She asks her daughter, Flores, how the baby is sleeping these days.
… “It’s, it’s difficult,” Flores says with a long sigh. “I never had the time to ask about my own family. I just need that time to figure it out: ‘OK, do we have to make some decisions?’ “
Decisions like, does she leave behind her daughter, her son and her grandchildren? Does she leave behind her career working with the city of Somerville? An estimated 6,000 Salvadorans living in Massachusetts — and nearly 200,000 Salvadorans across the country — with TPS are facing similar decisions.
“Doesn’t matter what are the reasons you came to this country, but I think we have been demonstrating to the government, we are hard workers,” she says.
People with TPS are authorized to work in the U.S. The Center for American Progress estimates Salvadoran TPS holders pump more than $400 million into Massachusetts’ GDP annually. Many of the recipients, like Flores, have been living here so long that they’ve started families, they own businesses and they’ve bought homes.
… People in El Salvador also fear the end of TPS.
“Our situation here in our country isn’t good. There’s a lot of crime, there’s extortion,” [Isabel] Quintanilla says in Spanish. “Here, close to the center of San Vicente, is a little calmer but a little ways up there, people are killed daily. All of the businesses, almost the majority, are extorted.”
Quintanilla says that at one point, she was doling out $2,500 in one day — $5,000 another day. She says young men who were collecting the money for a local gang would come into the bakery, demand the payment and threaten to kill her if she didn’t pay.
Quintanilla had dreams of growing her business and recently tried opening a second location. But she says that sort of thing isn’t a possibility here.
“The result was that on two occasions they assaulted me, they tied me up, they pressed their guns against me, they took everything of value, money, clothes, everything,” she says, referring to young men she believes were gang members.
“So, I had to close. Because the idea was to get ahead with the business, but with the situation the way it is here, no.”
The violence scares Quintanilla the most when she thinks about her daughter coming back to El Salvador. Gang members can tell by someone’s looks, clothing and accent, she says, whether the new person in town has been living in the U.S. Her daughter would be an easy target.