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The Economic Impact Of Trump's Decision To End Protected Status For Salvadorans


Salvadorans in the United States send a lot of money back home - the World Bank says more than $4 and a half billion in 2016. Here's another way to think about it. Those remittances make up about 17 percent of El Salvador's GDP. This is one of the many reasons why leaders in El Salvador are worried about an announcement yesterday by the White House that the U.S. is ending the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, program for some 20,0000 Salvadoran migrants. That means some will go back, and others who choose to stay in the U.S. illegally won't be able to keep the jobs they have now.

To talk more about this is Cecilia Menjivar. She's co-director of the University of Kansas' Center of Migration Research (ph). And she has been studying Salvadoran TPS recipients here in the U.S. And she's originally from El Salvador. Welcome to the show.

CECILIA MENJIVAR: Thank you for having me.

MCEVERS: So $4.5 billion - that is a lot of money to be going into such a small economy as El Salvador's. How would you explain the impact of that money in El Salvador?

MENJIVAR: The remittances that immigrants send from the United States represent a pillar of the economy because they reach almost all sectors of the economy in one way or another.

MCEVERS: Yeah, like, give us some examples.

MENJIVAR: So for instance, there are many immigrants in the United States who purchase homes in El Salvador to retire later or to - for their families who live there. So the housing market, for instance, is very active as a result of remittances. Construction companies, real estate businesses, they sell homes to immigrants who are here, especially TPS holders.

MCEVERS: And another interesting thing is that these remittances have actually reached a record high in the past two years. Why is that?

MENJIVAR: You know, I'm not quite sure, but it could be that with longer time in the United States Salvadoran immigrants, and especially TPS holders, have been able to get better jobs, better-paying jobs in the United States. So it could be an effect of the time that they have spent in the United States and what they have accumulated here.

MCEVERS: Of these 200,000 people who are losing their status, their TPS status, what kind of economy would they be going back to?

MENJIVAR: Yeah. You know, this is a two-part response because first, many of the TPS holders are only going to be moved to an undocumented status. But there will be people who also go back. And what they will return to is a country that does not generate jobs that are commensurate to their experience and level of education. And those who return will likely be not necessarily unemployed, but definitely underemployed.

MCEVERS: Cecilia Menjivar, co-director of the University of Kansas' Center of Migration Research, thank you very, very much.

MENJIVAR: You're very welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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