End of TPS could send a Santa Rosa resident back to El Salvador

Ricardo Ibarra
Written by Ricardo Ibarra

[Spanish version]

José Molina left his village east of the capital of El Salvador in 1999. There were hard times in the countryside after a long and disastrous civil war. After the earthquake that shook his homeland in 2001, he got TPS, Temporary Protected Status.

The Trump administration canceled the possibility of renewing this permit, which has established that Salvadorans with TPS must leave the country as of September 9, 2019, as confirmed by Liliana Gallelli lawyer at the Kerosky Purves & Bogue with facilities in Santa Rosa.

— When did you decide to come to the United States?

— We had just gone through a civil war that lasted 12 years. The post-war period was very difficult. When I decided to go to the United States, in 1999, I was 26 years old. There was 70 percent unemployment in El Salvador.  I never thought I was going to come to the United States, but at that time the economic condition was non-existent and there was no work. With a wife and two girls, there were times that we wouldn’t even have enough money to eat. Unfortunately, there was no other option than to look for the future in another area.

— Did you come alone or with family?

— I came alone. To come from El Salvador you have to cross three borders: Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. When you are illegal, you are considered the worst offender because you are hiding from the authorities. I left El Salvador by bus to Tecún Umán in Guatemala which was easy, but from there on my ordeal began. From there we took boats to get to Mexico and if I remember correctly, I arrived at a place called Puerto Escondido. As we hid, we walked through mud holes until we reached a hill where at night we were picked up by Mexican authorities. I never found out where that place was. After some cops reached an agreement with the “coyotes” (human smugglers), they took us to a hotel. We arrived to Mexico City by bus where we were put in the bottom of the bus where the suitcases go, so that the authorities would not catch us. From bus to bus we arrived at Piedras Negras where we crossed the river to El Paso, Texas. My family followed in 2000.

— How did you get to Santa Rosa?

— I had a couple of informal jobs in Los Angeles. We had relatives in Santa Rosa and we came to visit. In relation to Los Angeles, I liked it better here because it’s more secluded, its greener.  I made the decision with my wife to come here try our luck and work in whatever was available, all to earn a little money.

— What is the immigration status of your family?

— In 2001 with the earthquake in El Salvador the crisis worsened and in that moment of catastrophe the United States granted TPS, which gives us permission to live and work legally here.  I have a mixed family; my two youngest kids were born here while my other two older daughters, my wife and I have TPS.

— What went through your mind when you learned that the United States was canceling TPS?

— Due to what happened with Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras, I saw it coming. When it comes to these issues, my family and I try to speak of the topic realistically and we try to prepare mentally. The problem is that one does not prepare for these situations. Sometimes you think you’re ready, but you’re truly not.

— Would returning to El Salvador be realistic for you and your family?

— We have a life here. We have a family here. We’ve grown here. I learned about gardening and carpentry here. We had to learn another language, other customs and other traditions. Another way of life. This is another world and when you’re in another world, everything changes. There is no plan b, because we are not prepared.

— Do you worry about immigration agents?

— Everyday. Actually, when you knocked on the door today, my daughter immediately said: “Dad, they’re knocking on the door.” It is something we are expecting. Who will it be? We imagine the worst. It is an insecurity that’s always relevant. We already know that they are doing raids, like at the 7-Eleven. That just fills you with insecurity.

— TPS critics claim that the permit was a temporary protection, as it states in its name. What are your thoughts of this?

— In my case, we knew from the beginning that it was temporary ever since George Bush implemented it because it was made clear that it was temporary. I’ve always been aware of that, the problem is that we forgot about that key aspect and we began to believe it was permanent but that is not the reality of the situation. Every 18 months we have been renewing our permit, waiting for Congress, the Senate and the President to approve or disapprove it. It has been almost 20 years since we have been in this situation.

— How would you like this situation to end?

— In the end, we are responsible for what happens in the future. We are going to have a fair immigration reform because we sustain the economy. We are the ones who work in restaurants, hotels and the vineyards. We are the Latino immigrants. We are the ones who built the base of this country. When we say “enough” as civilized people while walking and demanding our rights, that is the day that they will give us a fair reform, but for that to happen we have to unite.

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Reach La Prensa Sonoma’s Editor Ricardo Ibarra at 707-526-8501 or email ricardo.ibarra@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ricardibarra.

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