On Wednesday, mother and son were one of more than a dozen families at a rally at Boston City Hall to protest the Trump administration’s decision to end a federal humanitarian immigration program known as Temporary Protected Status for an estimated 200,000 Salvadorans. TPS allows immigrants who cannot be safely repatriated to their countries because of civil disruptions or natural disasters to live and work in the United States legally.
Losing this status means Pineda’s mother and as many as 6,000 others from Massachusetts will be required to return to El Salvador in 18 months or risk deportation.
Elsa Pineda cleans Boston offices from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. — and still asks about her son’s homework, he said. She leaves their Chelsea home for work as he arrives and makes sure there’s food waiting. “She wants to make sure my little brother grows up to be a good man,’’ Charles Pineda said in interview. His mother wept during much of the event.
“She doesn’t like to give up. That’s why she’s always fighting even now that the situation seems very bleak. She doesn’t want to leave us,” he added, while holding his mother’s hand.
Like many TPS holders who have lived and worked in the United States for more than two decades, two of Elsa’s sons are US citizens. She wishes people would listen, inform themselves, and realize that TPS holders just want a better life for their families.
“You give me the strength to keep fighting,” she said to her son Charles in Spanish. “I want to see them get an education, and work hard to see them get ahead when they’re older.”
At the rally, sponsored by an East Boston immigrant rights organization called Centro Presente, politicians including Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston city councilors, State Representatives Adrian Madaro and Marjorie C. Decker, and community leaders such as Pastor Dieufort J. Fleurissaint assailed the decision.
“We are part of this society, we are part of this city,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, in comments to the politicians about the immigrant community. “So please don’t come to see us only when we’re facing a crisis. Come to see us every single day. Come to East Boston. Come to Chelsea.”
Walsh called the TPS decision one of the most hypocritical since Trump took office. The TPS holders are as Bostonian as anyone else in this city, he said.
“They’re our neighbors and coworkers. They’re members of our faith community. They own homes and businesses,” Walsh said. “Taking this protection away from these young people and family members will not make our community safer. To the contrary, it’s gonna introduce chaos.”
Nearly every Saturday since early last year, 10-year-old Gabriela Martinez of Leominster has attended meetings about TPS with her parents. She told the crowd she wants to teach English as a second language when she grows up to help immigrant families. She said she doesn’t want to see families destroyed or divided.
“In order to accomplish our dreams, our parents and family need residency, not just TPS,” the fifth-grader said.
Her mother, Carolina Mata, who is at risk of being deported, works at a plastic factory and said these difficult conversations are important to have with her children. But she knows they’re taking a toll. In elementary school, her daughter is already thinking about what it will be like to live in a place like El Salvador with high poverty and high rates of crime. Mata left El Salvador in the late ‘90s a few years after her father was killed.
‘In order to accomplish our dreams, our parents and family need residency, not just TPS.’
“I think she’s been impacted a lot by what she sees this government doing,” Mata said in Spanish.
Harvard sophomore Elmer Vivas told the crowd that his parents have earned the right to be in the United States after coming from El Salvador.
“They’ve had to fight to get a job, they’ve had to fight to clean other people’s offices, clean other people’s hotel rooms, pick up other people’s trash, but they’ve done it with pride,” Vivas said. “Time and time again they’ve reminded me that they take the job they do because it’s the best opportunity they have.”Cristela Guerra can be reached at email@example.com.