This morning, the government of El Salvador saluted Donald Trump for his election as president of the United States. But what will a Donald Trump presidency mean for El Salvador? Here are a few areas where his impact will be felt.
Immigration. Without a doubt, an anti-immigrant Trump administration could have serious economic and social impacts on El Salvador. Approximately one of every four people alive who were born in El Salvador or an estimated 2 million Salvadorans, currently live in the US. Remittances which they send home make up one sixth of El Salvador’s gross national product.
Estimates vary, but perhaps between 700,000 and 1 million Salvadorans in the US are undocumented and would be a focus of Trump’s immigration enforcement efforts. If a significant percentage of them are suddenly deported, the disruption in El Salvador will be great. Most certainly, executive actions of the Obama administration which were intended to reduce deportations will be reversed or limited by Trump. These could include DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as well as the Central American Minors Program, and the new refugee program in coordination with the UNHCR.
Of immediate concern to the government of El Salvador is the preservation of Temporary Protected Status. There are currently about 200,000 Salvadorans residing in the US on Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) These are people who are not in the US legally, but as a result of being in the US at the time of the 2001 earthquakes, the US has deferred deporting them for humanitarian reasons. That status has continually been extended by executive action, until the current expiration date of March 9, 2018. I would think there would be a serious question whether a Trump administration would grant another extension. This morning the government of El Salvador instructed its ambassador in Washington to make contact with the Trump transition team to try to make sure that TPS is retained.
Trade policy and economic blowback.I do not recall Trump mentioning the DR-CAFTA trade agreement which lowered trade barriers between the US and the countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic. Trump focused in his campaign on NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but also spoke broadly of ripping up “our awful trade deals.”
Trump’s overall rhetoric is focused on the outsourcing of US jobs to overseas locations and bringing those jobs back to the US. Frankly, I have not seen many jobs fleeing the US and relocating in El Salvador. The only two which come to mind as possibilities are call centers and aircraft maintenance. Call centers are a booming business in El Salvador, answering customer service calls for global businesses, but I am not sure that their presence here is a result of DR-CAFTA or any other trade agreement. US airlines, in particular Southwest, do contract for aircraft overhaul maintenance in El Salvador, and that practice has long angered airline unions.
If Trump policies lead to economic contraction it will be felt in El Salvador. Every time the US economy sneezes, El Salvador catches the flu. Economic slowdowns in the US lead to reductions in the important remittance flows into El Salvador. In addition, if Trump policies lead to a decline in the value of the US dollar, it will be felt in El Salvador which uses the dollar as its currency. A declining dollar will make purchasing goods in world markets more expensive for El Salvador.
Climate change. Fortune Magazine this morning wrote:
While many groups from Silicon Valley to the auto industry are concerned about the [Trump] win, none should be more worried than those working on the future of clean energy and the fight against climate change.
El Salvador is particularly vulnerable to climate change which can lead to droughts, to coastal flooding, to destructive tropical storm activity, and reductions in food production. El Salvador can do nothing alone to halt the increases in greenhouse gases; that depends on the actions of the US and other industrialized nations. Those actions and international agreements on climate change are imperiled by a Trump presidency.
Trump’s Latin America policy. What Latin America policy?