During a Jan. 11 meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office, held to discuss a bipartisan immigration deal, President Donald Trump now infamously made vulgar and disparaging remarks toward El Salvador, Haiti and several African nations. In the same breath, he suggested the United States should instead be accepting more immigrants from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met with just one day prior, and Asian countries, feeling it would benefit the economy, according to a White House official.
Trump has since received intense backlash for his prejudiced comments — in particular, for singling out Haiti, from which 45,000 individuals fled to the United States and were granted protections under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program after a devastating 2010 earthquake. Just several weeks ago, those protections were removed.
In addition, Homeland Security officials announced Jan. 8, just several days prior to Trump’s inflammatory comments, that the nearly 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants who were allowed to live and work legally in the United States since two earthquakes devastated their country in 2001 would also be losing their protections under the TPS program.
Without resistance, it’s possible that others benefiting from this program, particularly Hondurans, may also be losing their protection soon, as Nicaraguans had already lost their protections last year. Though it’s unclear which African nations Trump was referring to, Sudanese protections are also set to expire in November of this year.
It’s reasonable for people to be incensed over these comments, as they perhaps reveal deeper racial biases Trump and his officials may be legislating upon, as well as compound insult and injury for those affected countries.
Not only does stripping protections of these recipients damage their own prospects within the United States — denying them work permits, medical insurance and additional benefits — but it’s also jeopardizing if they choose to return — risking familial separation or physical safety.
It’s unclear whether or not Trump acknowledges the damage his decision will have on these groups.
But it’s clear he doesn’t fully understand the damage this same decision will have on the United States at large.
The Center for American Progress cites that the more than 300,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians living in the United States with TPS have lived here for an average of 19 years and have had nearly 275,000 U.S.-born children in that time. Additionally, 69.2 to 83.5 percent participate in the labor force (compared with 63 percent for the overall population), and their accompanying analysis shows that if TPS recipients from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti were to leave the United States, we would lose $164 billion in GDP over the next decade.
Many major American cities, especially those in California, Texas and Florida, will hurt in the wake of this decision. Houston, specifically, will feel the shock as many scramble to repair the devastated region left behind by Hurricane Harvey — construction jobs many Salvadorans currently occupy. As people who have previously escaped natural disaster, it would be a sad irony if they too had to leave Houston, leaving behind them an untimely labor shortage, as proposed by The New York Times.
In Illinois alone, a relatively TPS-scarce state, 1,800 individuals are TPS recipients. They have lived in the United States for an average of 18 years and contribute $95.1 in million gross domestic product (GDP) annually.
“We had hope that if we worked hard, paid our taxes and didn’t get in trouble we would be allowed to stay,” Veronica Lagunas, 39, a Salvadoran previously protected under TPS said in an interview with The New York Times.
But without the benefits that TPS has allowed them, many may be forced to return back to countries that, though infrastructurally stronger, still may not be in the condition to receive them. In tandem, the United States may be losing hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who played invaluable parts in the country’s operation since their arrival — who would continue to contribute had they been allowed legal protection within the country.
If TPS recipients are integrated members of our society, as shown, then the government’s refusal to recognize them as such would be another motion toward its disintegration.
Trump has since denied making those insensitive comments, but he has done nothing to reverse the accompanying legislative decisions that have harmed those same groups of people.