CHICAGO — Salvadorans in Chicago and across the U.S. could face deportation after the Trump administration announced it's ending special protections for immigrants from the country.
Jose Manuel Ventura, the co-founder and chief legal counsel for Centre Romero in Rogers Park, says hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans left their country after devastating earthquakes hit the region in 2001.
There are about 40,000 Salvadorans living in Chicagoland, many of whom have been here since they were granted temporary protected status (TPS) in 2001, according to Ventura. Now, those who have not applied for legal permanent residency may have to go back once that protected status ends. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights estimates there are 1,300 such people living in Illinois along with their 1,000 U.S.-born children.
"It's a whole life - it's about 20 years, so they don't have anything back in their country of origin because they've been living here," Ventura said.
Ventura says he can’t understand why the administration has canceled their residency permits so many years after the Salvadoran immigrants came to the U.S. for a better life.
"They've been paying their taxes, they've been working legally... [President Trump] has no reason whatsoever why to do this,” Ventura said.
Since 1984, Centre Romero has served as a community organization and educational center for more than 700 Salvadorans in their neighborhood. The staff spent the day Monday fielding dozens of phone calls and emails from concerned immigrants, telling them they have until September 2019 to obtain legal residency, or be forced to leave the United States.
Until then, Ventura says he’ll keep encouraging local Salvadorans not to give up hope.
"They may be able to apply for something else to become a legal permanent resident, but some of them don't have anything, so it's a case-by-case basis,” Ventura said.