In the Mouth of the Wolf

Detroit’s Salvadoran Community reacts to the end of TPS

Since 2001, after two consecutive earthquakes devastated their native country, nearly 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants have legally worked and lived in the United States under a humanitarian program known as Temporary Protected Status. 

Last month, the Trump administration announced its intention to end TPS for El Salvador. Current Salvadoran TPS recipients have until September 9, 2019 to either leave the country or risk detention and deportation.

Justice for Our Neighbors Southeastern Michigan has provided “Know Your Rights” presentations for Centro Familiar and taken on clients from the church. “It’s more than just a congregation,” says JFON SEMI site attorney Melanie Goldberg. (Pictured left, with Rev. Gandarilla and JFON SEMI Site Director, Victoria Booker.) “The pastor has built a community and a warm home for her flock.”

There is panic in the neighborhood,” says Rev. Patricia Gandarilla of Centro Familiar Cristiano UMC in Southeast Detroit.

These are good people who work hard, pay taxes, love their families, and support their community. This is their country. How can they go back? Go back to what?”

Many of the TPS recipients in the community came here when they were very young, Rev Gandarilla reminds us. Many escaped dangerous situations. But that doesn’t mean they have forgotten the people they left behind.

Fully 80 – 85 percent of Salvadoran TPS recipients regularly send money to relatives back in their country of birth, averaging $4,300 a year, or $600 million annually. That’s more than the official U.S. aid to El Salvador. These remittances are a lifeline for 1 in every 20 households in El Salvador—men, women and children who depend upon these dollars to survive.

What happens when that money suddenly disappears? How much more desperate, how much more dangerous, will El Salvador become?

This street mural personifies the determination, tenacity and spirit of Detroit’s many Hispanic neighbors. “Until the Sun of Justice shines on everyone,” says Rev. Gandarilla, “we must have hope.”

The politicians, says Rev Gandarilla, aren’t thinking clearly. 70 percent of TPS holders have a U.S. citizen sibling, spouse, or child. The end of TPS means separation and suffering for thousands of husbands and wives, parents and children.

“The government,” she says, “needs to start thinking about these American children.  No parent I know will take their children back to El Salvador. Yes, these are their children, but they will absolutely leave them here.

“No parent,” she adds emphatically, “is willing to put their child in the mouth of the wolf.”


Featured photo courtesy of WWFD Public Radio. 


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