San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Salvadorans in U.S. Worried about Visas

DALLAS, Texas – Blanca Miranda is a Central American immigrant who, though seven months pregnant, works in a Dallas hotel under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and worries that the Bush administration might not grant another renewal of the privilege.

If that occurs, the future becomes a lot more uncertain for her three children – all under 5 – and her parents back in El Salvador, who depend on the money she sends home each month.

“I am the breadwinner for my household … but it’s difficult to get a job. Now, without a work permit, things could get worse because I’d have to leave the country and start over from zero,” the 29-year-old Miranda said.

Living with the same uncertainty is Isabel López, another Salvadoran who for the past five years has worked at a retirement home in Irving, just west of Dallas.

“Not having a work permit (would hurt), like not getting work and medical benefits for me and my daughter. Also, I’d lose my job right away and I’d have to go around in fear as an undocumented (immigrant),” López said.

Astrid Salazar de Ariz, Salvadoran consul general in Dallas, said that the nervousness experienced by some of her compatriots is, in general, the product of unfounded rumors.

The U.S. government has made no decision to shelve TPS and ending the program would require a substantial – and unlikely – change of heart by the administration, she said.

“What is being said (about the possible non-renewal of TPS) is more of a drama than a tragedy, because nothing has even happened,” she said.

The consul general said that the U.S. President and Congress will announce the government’s decision on TPS 60 days prior to when it expires, which for Salvadorans is in September.

“Before speculating whether TPS will be extended or not (for Salvadorans), we should wait until May, when the U.S. government will make a decision regarding the Hondurans and Nicaraguans,” who also have their own TPS privilege, the consul general said. “Then, we will see the real U.S. stance. El Salvador, as I see it, has many points in its favor and it will be difficult for this government to take negative action, mainly due to our good bilateral relations and our support of the war in Iraq.”

Thanks to protected residence status, immigrants from certain countries may live and work temporarily in the United States, helping their homelands’ economies by sending home cash remittances from their earnings here, which now represent El Salvador’s largest single source of revenue.

Salazar de Ariz also said that Salvadoran President Tony Saca will meet with representatives of the U.S. government in the coming days to discuss the details of El Salvador’s case.

But for some skeptics, like Manuel Gómez, a 53-year-old Salvadoran who works in construction, the anti-immigrant policy that has taken hold in some U.S. political sectors could affect the re-authorization of the much appreciated – and desperately needed – measure.

“It would be a severe blow for us, but also it would mean the beginning of a harsher policy intended to strengthen the U.S. government against internal pressures from the opposition,” he said.

Salvadorans were granted TPS in 2001 after the suffering and economic hardship brought by that year’s terrible earthquakes. Hondurans and Nicaraguans received TPS status after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

According to data provided by El Salvador’s Consulate General in Dallas, about 40,000 of the country’s citizens live in North Texas, of whom a fifth would be covered by TPS. The measure applies to a total of 220,000 Salvadorans nationwide.


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