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With three kids, two houses and a business, one Salvadoran couple might have to leave it all behind

Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio

In 2001, the U.S. government granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to more than 200,000 migrants from El Salvador after a pair of earthquakes struck their country. 

TPS gave the Salvadorans a way to work legally in the United States, to build lives, and raise families.

On Jan. 8, the Trump administration ended TPS for the Salvadoran migrants. Now, they have to figure out a way to remain here legally, or return to El Salvador by Sept. 2019.

Salvadorans say even though TPS was granted because of the earthquakes, being in the U.S. has saved them from the gangs and violence in El Salvador.

Immigration attorney Brad Maze of Palmer ReyPLLC, his former client Norma, and her eldest daughter Kenya joined Stateside to discuss how the Michigan family has had to figure out how to make the best of their new situation.

Norma and her husband came to the United States from El Salvador 25 years ago, both have TPS. All three of their children were born in the U.S., and Kenya is a junior at Wayne State University studying psychology. 

Norma and her husband came to the United States as teenagers, and own a floor installation business. When she found out that Homeland Security was going to end TPS for Hondurans and Haitians, Norma knew that Salvadorans were going to be next, but she was still disappointed when it became official.

“Our country, they don’t give us any chance, any opportunity to grow up, to get some education. [If it was] the other way, nobody risks their life to come here. Nobody. I risk my life.”

When Kenya found out about TPS, she was home alone looking at her social media feed and saw the news being posted by friends. “My siblings right now really don’t understand, [my brother is] really just living his life the way it is and making him feel normal. My little sister doesn’t know anything. I am basically the one suffering the most because I’m their backup, so it hit me hard.”

Kenya is preparing for the possible September 2019 deportation of her parents by studying as much as she can, “so when that deadline comes up I have at least a degree and I can work and I can take over what my parents are leaving.”

Kenya will be the sole guardian of her younger siblings if her parents are deported, something her mother Norma feels great remorse over. “I tell her all the time I feel sorry, because you’re not supposed to do this but we don’t have a choice now.”

There are limited options for Norma and her husband to stay, according to Brad Maze. They could become green card holders through Kenya, but it may require them to stay in El Salvador for up to ten years.

According to Maze, there are upwards of 300,000 U.S. citizen children of TPS recipients, and it wasn’t until the Trump administration that he and other immigration lawyers have had to “really counsel our clients as to what they need to look at different options.”

Often TPS recipients have been in their countries of origin for extensive periods of time, where immigrants become “part of the fabric of our community … part of our economic powerhouse … part of our social networks.”    

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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