Tampa Salvadorans react to Trump order sending them back

Local Salvadorians speak out on ban that Trump has put in place

Tampa, FL -- Twenty months.

That's how long The Trump administration is giving nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador -- many who've been living in the U.S. for more almost 20 years -- to leave.

Thousands of Salvadorans have been working and living under temporary protected status in the U.S. after a pair of devastating earthquakes in 2001.

Many of them, it turns out, have made their homes, careers and families here in the Bay Area.

Gilma Campos, for example, is originally from El Salvador, but has lived and worked in West Tampa for 22 years.

Campos has owned the Pupuseria Centroarmericana restaurant in Tampa 14 of those years, and has been a proud American since 2010. 

But Campos is concerned for several of her customers, also from El Salvador, who still maintain temporary protected status.

“Yes, I am worried. They are from my country. We worry for our people,” said Campos.

The Trump administration says El Salvador has now rebuilt. And so, for those who are not U.S. citizens, it’s time to go back. 

“Just within Tampa Bay I am sure that there are a few thousand in small communities, and even more if you were to take on all of Tampa Bay,” said Daniela Carrion, an immigration lawyer with the Linesch Firm in Palm Harbor.

Carrion says the vast majority of immigrants from El Salvador are not low-skilled migrant workers or criminals that the Trump administration promised to deport. They're more often professionals. Taxpayers who could probably apply for permanent citizenship.

“But many of them don't know that,” said Carrion, “Many of them are not even prepared to begin to discuss these facts, simply because they didn't think they would ever have to.”

Possible paths to citizenship include having a child or sibling in the U.S. who is a citizen and over 21 years of age. There’s also marriage to a U.S. citizen. Applicants can also have an employer who can offer sponsorship. And victims of certain crimes, said Carrion, may also be able to seek permanent residency. 

“We gave them that hope, and are saying now, we are saying, 'You created your livelihood here, but now you need to go back to a country you no longer call home,'” said Carrion.

Carrion says Salvadorans who want to stay in the U.S. should start applying for permanent status now, because the application process can often take several months.  

For thousands who fled – or were even forced to leave El Salvador – it was an earthquake that first shattered their lives.

Being forced to go back now, says Campos, would be another cruel disaster. 

“It's going to be hard for them and kids that lived here their whole lives. To go over there is going to be a new place that they don't even know,” said Campos. “So, it’s going to be very hard.”

 

 

© 2018 WTSP-TV


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