For nearly 50 years, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week. It is an opportunity for us to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees and survivors of human trafficking.
This year, National Migration Week ran from Jan. 7-14 with the theme, "Many Journeys, One Family," and invited us to remember that each of our families has a migration story - some recent and others in the distant past.
Unfortunately, this year, in a case of shocking irony, the Department of Homeland Security decided to revoke what is called "Temporary Protected Status" for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans on the second day of Migration Week. The decision by the administration is the polar opposite of the kinds of actions called for in our Migration Week celebrations, as well as in Catholic social teaching.
Briefly, TPS is intended to protect foreign nationals in the U.S. from being returned to their home country if it became unsafe during the time they were in the U.S. and would put them at risk of violence, disease or death.
In the case of El Salvador, TPS was granted to all Salvadorans as a result of the 2001 earthquakes that their country suffered. There are, by most estimates, about 200,000 Salvadorans who have been covered here in the U.S. under TPS.
They have since been vetted, bought homes and raised families, including an estimated 190,000 children who were born in this country and are U.S. citizens. They have become plumbers, construction workers, business owners and janitors. They are our neighbors and our parishioners. Regardless of that, the administration has ordered that all 200,000 Salvadorans return by July 2019.
The U.S. bishops issued a fact-finding report on conditions in Honduras and El Salvador in October. In their extensive report, they stated that El Salvador is "an important U.S. government partner challenged by internal displacement, and citizen security, which undermine the government's ability to adequately address the returning of the extremely large TPS population." They go on to detail the conditions that exist in El Salvador that would subject returning Salvadorans to violence, humanitarian challenges, displacement and economic peril.
I visited El Salvador a few years ago on a mission trip with Maryknoll, and I can testify to the difficult conditions that the people in that country still face, not the least of which is the gang violence that threatens the entire population. Thousands of Salvadoran children have fled the country to avoid being recruited or killed. Sending families into that situation - including the 190,000 children who are U.S. citizens - is the antithesis of our Catholic value of respect for human life and dignity.
Our bishops have urged Congress to find a legislative solution to keep Salvadoran families here in the U.S. and safe, and to help them find a more permanent solution to their status. Urge your member of Congress and senators to do just that. Write to them today.