The White House's decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections for nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador has business owners from the Central American country in limbo.
“What’s going to happen with our business that we’ve had for years?" asked Elda Roman, a Salvadoran immigrant with TPS who owns a T-shirt printing business inside of a "swap meet" in Los Angeles. "We have a family, a house. Is everything going to go under? Is it just going to end?”
Roman came to the U.S. illegally 19 years ago, but for the last 15 years, she has been protected under TPS. The programs allows immigrants from a country deemed unsafe to stay in the U.S.
“The crime rate. The lack of jobs. If you don’t have a degree in El Salvador, it’s really hard to get a job," said Roman.
"What’s going to happen with our business?"
Home to the nation's largest population of Salvadoran TPS recipients in the nation, L.A.'s El Salvador Corridor, a 1.3-mile stretch, has more than 100 Salvadoran-owned businesses.
A few blocks ways in MacArthur Park -- a neighborhood known for its abundance of street vendors selling Central American delicacies -- is Roman's T-shirt printing business. She and her husband have been running it for 10 years.
"Business has gone down," Roman said as she printed a photo on a shirt. "I think when rumors of the cancellation of TPS started, fellow Salvadorans started saving their money, to prepare to pay attorney fees, or to potentially have to go back to El Salvador.”
The White House's announcement even has Salvadoran business owners with legal status worried.
"We could not do business in our home country... because we'd fall under the control of nearby gangs."
"The people that shop here, they’re people without papers, without citizenship or they have TPS, so it affects all of us," said Marylu Vasquez, who sells clothes right across from Roman's booth.
The Trump administration said Salvadorans no longer need the special status because roads, schools, hospitals and homes have been reconstructed since a string of earthquakes struck the country in 2001. The administration said people with TPS status have to leave the U.S. by September 2019.
And while Roman says El Salvador's roads may be better now, its crime is not.
"We could not do business in our home country," said Roman. "Because we’d have to fall under the control of nearby gangs.”
Regardless of her legal status, Roman said she will do whatever it takes to stay in the U.S. with her two sons.
“If there’s no path to legalization, as a mother, I have to do it. As a mother, I’m prepared to live as an undocumented woman.”
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