Deportation threatens American dreams

By Viola Du
Medill Reports

Living with a loving wife, two daughters, a cat and a dog in a house he owns in Berwyn, Donald Ortega achieved all the dreams he could imagine when he first crossed the border and came to the United States.

Ortega, 34, is Salvadoran and a beneficiary of the Temporary Protected Status program. He arrived in America when he was 16, learned English and worked multiple jobs over the years. In 2007, Ortega married Karol, a Mexican American and she gave birth to their daughters Michelle and Emily.

“I’m living as an American,” Ortega said. “Just living the American dream until –  until just now, I would say.”

On January 8, President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it will end the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, of about 200,000 Salvadorans who have come to the United States since 2001.

Ortega is one of the TPS recipients who faces deportation when the TPS permits expire in 2019 under the new policy.

Ortega, like many others, faces a wrenching decision: whether to live apart from his family if he has to leave the U.S. His wife and two daughters have never been to El Salvador. Ortega said he would not want to take his family back to his country.

“My wife doesn’t realize how hard this could be,” Ortega said. “For her to survive what I survive is not (possible).”

Ortega lived in a small village in El Salvador with a population of about 40 people. His brother was a police officer and was killed in gang related violence.

In order to stay in the United States, Ortega will have to file his case to apply for green card. If he doesn’t win his case, he will be deported back to El Salvador long before he can refile. The wait time to refile is 10 years.

“I would be 40 something years old when that case comes,” Ortega said. “The United States is going to be totally different.”

What is Temporary Protected Status
and what will happen if it ends?

Maria Salgado is a legal assistant at Centro Romero, an organization “that serves the refugee immigrant population on the northeast side of Chicago”. Salgado has been working with TPS related cases for years. She now talks about the program and the ramification of ending the program.

What are the options for TPS recipient?

Chicago – Sanctuary City

Chicago became a sanctuary city in 2012 and the status was reaffirmed in 2016. The program protects residents’ rights to access city services regardless of immigration status. Police officers cannot arrest someone solely based on immigration status.

Chicago is a Sanctuary city.

Salvadoran TPS recipients are resilient

There are more than 4,000 TPS beneficiaries in Illinois, according to the Congressional Research Service.

If it ends, it ends. We are sticking around until they kick me out. And if they kick me out, we will figure it out.

We all lose as a community.
There’s a big age range and varieties of job positions they hold.

Not only do they lose, but we all lose as a community

Photo at top: Donald Ortega interacts with his family at his Berwyn home. (Viola Du/MEDILL)