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Trump's Move against Salvadorans Won't Make Them Leave — or Help U.S. Workers

January 11, 2018 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

Trump administration officials announced this
past week that the government would terminate provisional residency
permits for about 200,000 Salvadorans next year. The decision is
part of President Trump’s “America first” agenda,
restricting the rights of immigrants in order to protect U.S.
workers. But, as previous immigration experiments demonstrate, the
policy will not aid American workers. And it certainly won’t
make Salvadorans pack their bags. Trump’s order is likely to
have the opposite effects.

President George W. Bush granted Salvadorans
temporary protected status (TPS) after devastating earthquakes hit
El Salvador in 2001. He and President Barack Obama repeatedly
extended the status. Beyond its humanitarian impact, TPS provides
significant economic benefits. It doesn’t give applicants access to any federal welfare
— so there are few costs — but it does grant the legal
right to work. And Salvadorans with TPS work at very high rates:
Eighty-eight percent
participate in the labor force, compared with 63 percent of all
Americans.

Legal employment has helped Salvadorans achieve a relatively
high standard of living. The median household income for
Salvadorans with TPS is $50,000, higher than the
roughly $36,000 for unauthorized immigrants. Their higher wages,
combined with the lack of public benefits, has been a big win for
U.S. taxpayers.

Canceling TPS will make it illegal for these Salvadorans to
work, but it’s unlikely to force them home. In 1990, President
George H.W. Bush granted TPS to some 185,000 Salvadorans during
the country’s civil war, and when President Bill Clinton canceled
their status in 1996, few returned.
Deportations rose only slightly, and many
Salvadorans just worked illegally until 2001.

The decision to cancel
protections for 200,000 immigrants will backfire.

At this point, 28 years since the original TPS designation and
17 years since the subsequent one, the incentives to stay will be
too large for any mass migration back to El Salvador. Trump can try
to drive them out with immigration raids and increased
deportations, as other presidents have tried, but the highest
percentage of unauthorized immigrants deported in a given year is
2.1 percent -
three times
the amount this administration deported in 2017.

Losing the legal right to work doesn’t prevent immigrants from
finding jobs. They can use fake or borrowed documents from U.S.
citizen family members, or employers can pay them off the books.
Illegal employment, however, pays less than legal employment
— employers compensate for taking
the risk of hiring someone who …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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