The departure of thousands of Salvadorans now at risk of losing their legal immigration status would result “in a massive economic hit to Long Island,” according to the executives of both Nassau and Suffolk counties, who pleaded with the region’s Congress members to intercede on their behalf.
A letter Thursday by Suffolk’s Steve Bellone and Nassau’s Laura Curran urged the lawmakers to work toward a legislative solution to counter a decision by the administration of President Donald Trump that could send many Salvadorans back to their homeland.
The executives made their case largely on practical concerns about the region’s economy. Deporting those immigrants to Central America, their letter suggests, would deprive Long Island of their economic contributions and hurt middle-class families.
“The decision by the Administration to terminate TPS for over 14,700 Salvadorans on Long Island will place thousands of Long Island families, and our local economy, at risk,” it states. “We respectfully ask that you take immediate action to address this urgent threat to our region.”
Curran and Bellone were responding to Tuesday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will come to an end for Salvadorans on Sept. 9, 2019.
The TPS designation was granted to Salvadorans as a form of humanitarian relief after 2001 earthquakes in their homeland. The decision to end it is part of a push to review and curtail TPS under Trump as critics complained that the frequent extensions of the status undercut its purpose as a program offering emergency help. Haitians and Nicaraguans were recently told they would be losing the status in 2019 as well.
The letter by the two Democrats is addressed to Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford), Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).
The executives cited an analysis by the Suffolk Department of Economic Development and Planning, which calculates losses of about $395 million in earnings and about $860 million in “value-added” to the local economy — with those and other factors amounting to a possible loss of $1.4 billion in the economy of the two counties.
The departure would also impact the real estate market, if an estimated 4,527 homeowners among Salvadoran TPS recipients were unable to work legally and pay their mortgages and property taxes, according to the analysis.
“We urge you to support and champion a legislative solution to keep thousands of Long Island families and taxpayers here,” Curran and Bellone said.
TPS recipients have support from both sides of the political aisle, even though no piece of legislation is close to passage. The One American Promise Act by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) has garnered 65 co-sponsors, including Suozzi and Rice, while the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees (ESPERER) Act proposed by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) has 12 sponsors, including King.
King, Zeldin, Suozzi and Rice said they support a legislative solution.
King, whose district is one of the top for TPS recipients in the country, thinks the status “should be made permanent for everyone who’s here now” and said he is willing to support such a bill. He said many TPS recipients are accustomed to life here. “They grow up, they go to school, they get jobs, they pay taxes, they have mortgages, they have everything else” as other residents, he said.
Suozzi said he would like to see action to help those and other immigrants facing deportation, as many are rooted in his home community of Glen Cove. “I have seen people grow up, start businesses and buy homes” while on temporary statuses. “I have seen people live the American Dream and the way we are trying to push people underground . . . is un-American.”
Zeldin cited the temporary nature of the program in a statement his office issued late Thursday.
Zeldin said “we are reminded that this program exists to provide temporary status, not permanent status” and that the extensions of the status since 2001 underscore “the deep flaws of our nation’s immigration system, one that must be fixed through legislative channels.”
Rice on Friday morning said she supports legalization for Salvadorans here, and she blamed Republicans for inaction.
“Instead of forcing these families back to the crime and corruption that awaits them in El Salvador, Speaker [Paul] Ryan and the Republicans in Congress must immediately take up legislation to protect TPS holders and DACA recipients,” Rice said in a statement.
Patrick Young, program director of the nonprofit Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead, said Republicans in particular need to pressure their party’s leadership.
“Right now, there’s very little that’s being done,” Young said. “Long Island will be one of the largest losers in the United States for the elimination of Temporary Protected Status.”
Opponents of extending TPS are skeptical about the estimates of economic loss.
Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., which favors restrictive immigration policies, said Salvadorans “mostly work at the bottom of the labor market in lower-wages jobs,” where there is a large supply of workers. “So if some lose status and go home it might mean slightly higher wages and improved job opportunities for less-educated natives and legal immigrants.”
TPS and Salvadorans on Long Island
•Roughly 14,700 — Salvadorans here under TPS.
•Roughly 71,000 — overall Salvadoran population on Long Island.
•About 78% — adult Salvadorans on TPS with jobs (compared to about 65% for the overall population.)
•$79,000 — median household income of LI Salvadorans on TPS.
•$1.4 billion — reduction of LI economy if Salvadorans on TPS were all to leave.
•4,527 Salvadorans on TPS are homeowners, with 3,961 carrying mortgages valued at approximately $594 million.
Sources: Estimates from Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning, U.S. Census Bureau.