In San Salvador gang violence and killings are an everyday occurrence. Many people are fleeing the turmoil that the city is facing and heading to the United States in hopes of finding a safe haven. Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, could provide that safe haven. TPS is granted to eligible nationals of designated countries suffering the effects of an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. TPS could provide a potential solution to many escaping the threat of violence and the opportunity to live in the United States without fear of deportation.
In the past 25 years since a civil war (with 75,000 civilian casualties), there has been a steady influx of El Salvadoran migrants to the United States. Gang violence and the recent breakdown of a truce between the country’s largest gangs, Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha, has been the cause of the most recent spike in the countries death toll. Newsweek reported that the onset of gang violence between rival gangs has skyrocketed, with a 70 percent increase in violent murders in the past year, overtaking neighboring Honduras in violence. In fact, El Salvador has recently been named the most dangerous country in the Americas! In response to the violence, The Peace Corps has recently suspended all activity in El Salvador. Unsurprisingly, the United States has seen an increase in Salvadoran migrants, often unaccompanied minors. Of the 4,450 people detained at the US-Mexico border in October and November 2015, 3,192 were unaccompanied minors. 
On top of the massive gang violence, there have also been increased reports of human rights violations—instances of police and armed forces taking justice into their own hands and murdering innocent bystanders.  Some police are even calling for the extermination of area gang members. In December 2015, the state Ombudsman of El Salvador found that 92% of the 2,202 human rights violations reported were from military and police personnel in the country. In an effort to make El Salvador safer, it is apparent that due process of law and human rights are a sad casualty.
Those who are already in the United States are still living in fear. The Obama Administration has recently enacted a series of raids—deporting those on final orders of deportation.  Thus far, 121 adults and children have been taken and deported. Although none are from El Salvador yet, the fear remains the same in such a close-knit community.
Some Salvadorans who are already here have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The most recent TPS status granted to Salvadorans was in response to the earthquakes in 2001 and has subsequently been renewed each year. TPS could be a viable solution. Not only does it provide El Salvadorans with some form of status, it would allow those who are proverbially ‘hiding in the shadows’ to come out and have proper work authorization. By providing work authorization, individuals would pay taxes and become eligible for some public benefits. It would also stem the tide of legally insufficient asylum applications, which clog the already backed up immigration courts system.
Conversely, some would argue that granting TPS would incentivize illegal immigration. However, I don’t think that’s the case. Fleeing on foot is not ideal. It’s expensive and risky. TPS does not provide a pathway to citizenship, but merely a band-aid, a temporary solution to a larger problem.
As a product of the DMV (DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia)—it’s hard. I have friends, neighbors and loved ones who have been impacted through this gang violence, whether fleeing from it or paying to keep their family members safe.
Without a doubt I am an advocate for the law and for justice, but I can’t see the justice in a system is that would deport people back into a chaotic and dangerous situation. It would be counterproductive to send human rights violators back to a country, while seemingly having no regard for the individuals who are being deported back into the same situation. This is not to say that lawful immigration is not important, but what do you do when innocent people are being killed? There isn’t an easy solution, but I think that there is a very human side that many people aren’t seeing. These individuals are your friends and neighbors. They are people who have the same values as all of us. They want the same thing that you want – to live a life free from fear and to freely love and provide for their families.
Carolyn Mills is a graduate from of Bowie State University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Carolyn is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She serves as 2L Representative for the International Law Society. Her interests and focus areas are on Central America and West Africa; she has traveled to both Guatemala and Honduras and hopes to visit Ghana this summer. She is currently a law clerk for the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Law Section.