By Quinlyn Manfull
The Trump administration’s recent decision to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 200,000 Salvadorians is just one on a long list of terrible decisions made by Trump about immigrants in his time as President (and long before).
Cited as a humanitarian program, the Immigration and Nationality Act allowed Salvadorians, Haitians, Nicaraguans and more to live and work legally in the United States due to natural disasters, armed conflict or other strife in their home countries. In past weeks, Trump has taken protections away from more than 45,000 Haitians who were given TPS after their 2010 earthquake, and last year over 2,500 Nicaraguans lost the same protections.
Salvadorans were, by far, the largest group given TPS, shielding them from deportation. Despite the name, TPS had become semi-permanent for hundreds of thousands of people who have been living and working in the United States for the vast majority of their lives, who have built families and livelihoods here.
The administration is giving Salvadorans in the program until September 2019 to leave the country. After that, they will no longer have permission to stay in the country, risking arrest and deportation for so many families across the nation.
Many Salvadorans currently living in the US, and those who originally qualified for protected status, were fleeing a brutal civil war in their country — a war that was made so brutal because of direct action taken by the United States.
In Washington Consensus era El Salvador, the US funded death squads and covered up human rights abuses; they provided the right-wing government in El Salvador with weapons, money and political support for a full 11 years after the 1981 massacre.
Washington took an active role in pitting groups against each other, in materially supporting conflicts as well as sending in advisors and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid. 75,000 people lost their lives during the civil war which lasted 12 years. The United Nations Truth Commission found that more than 84 percent of the killings, kidnappings and torture had been the work of government forces, including the paramilitaries, death squads and army units trained by the United States.
The United States used Latin America as a guinea pig for the neoliberal hellscape they would soon promote across the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Obama’s administration made a huge stride when he expressed regret for US support of Argentina’s “dirty war,” but it is not enough. El Salvador may be small, but the reminiscents and stains of Washingtonian imperialism and intervention may have been the largest there.
Modern day issues in El Salvador, from media manipulation to the use of torture and other war crimes, is rooted in United States imperialism and traces of colonialism. When Cheney can get away with saying that El Salvador is “a lot better” because the United States came in, violence is being committed against both citizens in El Salvador, and Salvadorans living in the United States today.
Trump’s attempt to flip the blame, trying to clean the US’s slate of complicity and culpability in brutality, is disgusting to say the least. Latin American countries today still feel the impact of American manipulation of debt, exploitation of natural resources and promotion of colonial tactics.
By not only not taking the blame for the events that took place in El Salvador, but to blame the immigrants who today do nothing but make America better is a perpetuation of the violence committed against them in the first place.
Colonialism today looks like wiping America’s slate clean, like not admitting to funding massacres and propping up violent proxy wars in other countries. Dependency on foreign states and a continued narrative of violence and destruction has been carefully crafted by the West. It is time to not only recognize the good that immigrant bring to this country, but to admit in our role in killing thousands of Salvadorans and supporting a violent regime.