“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Donald Trump asked on Thursday, January 11, when referring to immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti or Africa, according to the newspaper "The Washington Post". The US president said this phrase during a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office, where measures to protect the people from these countries were discussed. "Why do we need more Haitians?" he added at another occasion.
On Monday, January 8, Trump eliminated the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of around 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants. In November, he did the same with 60,000 Haitians. Moments later at the same meeting on January 11, he suggested that the United States should bring more people from countries like Norway.
The words of the president of the United States were rejected by many people around the world. On Friday, January 12, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) issued a statement in which its president Randi Weingarten responds to the racist comments made by Trump. The Union of Education, Norway and the AFT also released a joint statement condemning the comments.
“Blowing up a bipartisan deal to protect kids and young people from deportation is bad enough, but spewing hateful attacks against people from countries that are majority nonwhite has once again exposed the racist and nativist ideology that forms the core of this administration", said Weingarten.
The president of the AFT, trade union affiliated to Public Services International (PSI), showed concern with the teachers of the United States, who now have to deal with the consequences of such comments.
“If you were a child of Haitian or African descent, what would you be feeling this morning? What happens in classrooms if children simply mimic or repeat the president’s vulgar and vile comments or share their racist overtones? How do we teach children that their president is betraying the values embedded in the Constitution on the eve of the Martin Luther King weekend in which we honor and promote justice, freedom and opportunity?"
Weingarten also stressed that the American people do not stand for “Trump’s hateful and racist words. We are better than that.”
Earlier, in a statement released on January 8, Weingarten said that Trump's decision to eliminate TPS for Salvadorans has once again exposed how politics now "trump" humanity. He recalled that since 2001, Salvadoran TPS holders have depended on this humanitarian protection to safeguard them from being deported to a country that continues to suffer from extreme violence and extraordinary conditions.
“These workers and their families contribute to our economy and our country every day. They teach in our classrooms, care for patients and serve our communities. By ripping nearly 200,000 vulnerable Salvadoran TPS holders away from their children who are U.S. citizens—more than 270,000—Trump has doubled down on a policy that is cruel and will hurt America both now and in the future."
“These are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’”.
In the opinion of Sandra Massiah, PSI Sub-Regional Secretary for the Caribbean, in the context of growing hate in the world, Trump's words reinforce the need for action by the trade union movement:
"There is a growing hatred in our societies. A growing lack of humanity. Some say that this is what happens in tough times. They say that people are always looking for someone to blame for the things that are not good in our societies.
These words are another clear signal to us in the trade union movement that we have to work even harder to protect all through our advocacy and campaigning and collective bargaining power to promote human rights. It is through public policy that we can reassert the dignity of all peoples in all countries. We must continue to promote and ensure the application of the universal declaration of human rights and ensure equality for all."
The impacts of the decision
Created in 1990, the TPS grants temporary visas and work permits to people from specific countries that were affected by wars or natural disasters. Many of the children of their beneficiaries have United States citizenship. This means that families can be separated after the decision of the president of the United States.
Many Salvadorans went to the United States due to earthquakes and the armed conflict that devastated the country. Haitians emigrated massively especially after the 2010 earthquake. A possible return of hundreds of thousands of people to their countries can have serious consequences for the economy and local living conditions, as well as for public services.
In addition, nations of Central America and the Caribbean often depend economically on remittances from their emigrants living in the United States. According to the Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador, in 2016 the 2.8 million Salvadorans living in the United States sent "a good part" of the 4.6 billion dollars in remittances received by the country, the highest figure in its history, which represents 17.1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Haitian emigrants, in turn, sent in 2016 to their country 2.4 billion dollars, or 28.65% of its GDP. Of these, 1.4 billion came from the United States.
The International Crisis Group, an NGO that works on the resolution and prevention of armed conflicts, stated, in its report "El Salvador's Politics of Perpetual Violence", from December 19, 2017:
“El Salvador is simply unprepared, economically and institutionally, to receive such an influx, or to handle their 192,700 U.S. children, many of them at the perfect age for recruitment or victimisation by gangs”.
But neither the United States seems to be prepared for the departure of so many Salvadoran and Haitian immigrants. According to an article in the newspaper "The New York Times," a report from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center estimates that eliminating the TPS of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti would remove about 6.9 billion dollars of contributions to Social Security and the Medicare program in a decade, and would reduce the US Gross Domestic Product by 45.2 billion dollars.
According to the same article, the Center for Migration Studies reports that Salvadorans, Hondurans and Haitians with TPS work especially in construction, restaurants, grocery stores, and as landscapers and day care workers.
Another article, published in the "The Washington Post", reports other data provided by the same organization:
"These TPS recipients have median household incomes of between $45,000 (Haitians) and $50,000 (Salvadorans) per year, according to the center, and participate in the labor force at higher rates than the native population. Thirty-four percent of Salvadorans and 23 percent of Haitians hold mortgages. Tearing them out would be a massive shock to the system."