LOS ANGELES – Central Americans with Temporary Protected Status in the United States Friday prepared to spend a sadder, more austere Christmas than in previous years as they will face the risk of returning to their home countries when their TPS status ends in 2018.
“We are limiting ourselves to spending just on toys and we have not yet talked about the Christmas weekend, because even that joy has been extinguished,” Salvadoran Veronica Lagunas told EFE.
This 39-year-old woman still does not know if she’ll be able to serve chompipollo, a chicken recipe that she brought with her when she immigrated to the US, for Christmas dinner this year.
Some 260,000 Salvadorans have benefitted from the TPS immigration program established in 2001 after two earthquakes in their country of origin, but all of them now live with the anguish that they have to start a life very different from the current one at the beginning of the year.
The TPS for Salvadorans expires on March 9, 2018, according to the decision of the government of President Donald Trump, and at the beginning of January they will know their fate.
The outlook is not rosy. Last November, the government announced the end of the TPS for 58,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans, and just extended for six months the TSP for 86,000 Hondurans, the same term that the Caribbeans received before knowing that they will have to return to their country in 2019.
Amid the dilemma, this immigrant community “saves” everything it can, and even the little ones join in this effort.
“My children feel our worries and do their part, so they do not ask for anything for Christmas,” Lagunas confessed about his two sons, both Americans: Lydia, 8, and Alexandre, 13.
In the house of Lorena Zepeda, 50, and her husband Orlando, 51, they debate whether they will try a “pavito” with an American recipe or stuffed Salvadoran-style chicken on Christmas Eve.
“This Christmas we feel a lot of pressure because of how they are playing with one’s feelings,” Lorraine, mother of two American children, 14-year-old Benjamin, and Lizbeth, 12, told EFE.
This resident in Los Angeles says that what she fears the most is “family separation” as part of possible deportation.
The Honduran Sonia Paz, whose TPS expires on July 5, 2018, told EFE that President Trump “stole hope and even money” from the “Tepesians” like her.
“The talks at home are not about when we will install the Christmas lights, but about what we are going to do when we finish the six month extension of TPS,” he said.
“We save in case we have to run for refuge in Canada, because we will not return to Honduras,” he said firmly.
Paz noted that another major concern of the “catrachos” – people from Honduras – with TPS this Christmas is that in previous years the renewal of the protection status cost $465, while today, for an “extension of a few months,” they must pay $495.
“That’s robbery!” He exclaimed about the payment that will make it even more difficult for the Central Americans with TPS, especially Nicaraguans, to stay in the country.