The Trump Administration sparked outrage after revoking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – a protection afforded to those fleeing natural disasters and war – from recipients of El Salvador, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti. But it’s his unfiltered comments that have commanded conversation for more than 24 hours. On Thursday, The Washington Post revealed that during a meeting with lawmakers he said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He also wondered why there weren’t more immigrants from Norway coming into the US. In light of his revolting comments, people have given those who agree with the racist views of the president a history lesson (here’s an excellent breakdown of how the US has contributed to Haiti’s plight). Others, including the nation of El Salvador, have responded with comments that outline the contributions of immigrants from these places. The Central American country sent a letter of protest to Trump, which stated Salvadorans were instrumental in rebuilding the Pentagon after September 11. But what the letter didn’t mention is that these immigrants did this, despite the fact that at the time, they had no idea if their TPS would be renewed.
Following one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in US history, immigrants played a large role in helping the country move forward. At the Pentagon, almost 40 percent of workers were Latino, many of whom came from Central America, according to a 2002 article on The Washington Post. Workers like then 31-year-old Douglas Ortiz, who was born in El Salvador, said working on the project meant changing the views of Americans. “This is a way to show the American people that not all immigrants who come to this country have the evil mind of destruction,” he told the Post.
Though some of the immigrants – coming from Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, and many other places – said the pay was decent, the workers had, at times, trouble collecting their pay from subcontractors and many didn’t know if their futures were guaranteed in the country. At the time, the beneficiaries of TPS had no idea if the US would renew their status. Or if after helping reconstruct the country through backbreaking work, they’d be told to leave.
But still, many, like Honduran immigrant Danilo Aleman, who stripped asbestos for three months, felt a duty to the United States. “I’d give my life for the United States,” the then 28-year-old told the Post. “This is the country that’s fed me. I even tell my mother [in Honduras] … I owe everything I have to this country.”
At a time when Trump is demonizing TPS recipients, spreading vile lies, and taking protections away from the most vulnerable, it’s important to remember that they’re an essential part of the fabric of our community. They deserve more than having their countries referred to as shitholes.