Until November, Haitians had ‘temporary protected status’, or TPS, which means hey are not subject to removal even if they have no other legal status.
It was introduced after the devastating 2010 earthquake, which shattered the country and killed 230,000 people.
But that status is ending, with the change to take effect on July 22 2019, which will force all Haitians who have the status to either find a legal way to stay or face deportation.
The total number of people affected is estimated at 46,000 but that may be a significant under-estimate.
Already large numbers of Haitians have fled to Canada, generating a mini-crisis there last year as it dealt with arrivals at its border crossings.
Haiti, however, is itself in bad shape. It is by far the poorest country in the Americas, and rated 209th poorest country in the world, out of 230 in total, putting it below Afghanistan and Ethiopia.
Unemployment is 40 per cent, and less than a third of the workforce have formal jobs, while the economy is still recovering from the latest massive natural disaster, Hurricane Mathtew, which hit in 2016.
Other statistics are also appalling: illiteracy is as high as 40 per cent, average per capita income has been estimated at $400 per person, and even though the country’s debt was canceled in 2010, it has already reached more than $2 billion, mostly owed to Venezuela.
A mass arrival of tens of thousands from the U.S. would be doubly bad news, economists say, as there are no jobs for them and the cash from remittances which they sent has become a key part of the economy.
El Salvadorans have had TPS since 2001, when an earthquake similar to Haiti’s hit an already troubled country.
It had never truly recovered from the 12-year-long civil war which started in 1980 and killed an estimated 75,000, and January 2001’s earthquake and the mudslides it triggered caused more havoc.
The death toll was less than 1,000, but up to a quarter of a million homes and buildings were destroyed or damaged and the country lost half its economic output.
In total, an estimated 250,000 El Salvadorans are in the U.S. on TPS, compared to a population of 6.1 million – making their remittances once of the key sources of foreign cash. In total remittances from all emigrants account for a fifth of its gross domestic product.
Compared to Haiti, El Salvador is far wealthier, ranking 143rd in the world on wealth, and literacy rates are far higher, but it is scarred by gang crime which makes it one of the world’s most dangerous places.
There were 81.2 murders for every 100,000 people in 2016, the highest casualty rate outside a war zone anywhere in the world. In 2016, there were 5,200 murders.
In comparison, the U.S. had 17,25 murders in 2016, a rate of 5.3 per 100,000. The rate in Norway – where Trump welcome arrivals from – was 0.6 per 100,000 in 2015.
The most notorious in the U.S. is MS-13, which ironically originated in Los Angeles, as did its rival M-18.
Their bitter rivalry fueled the murder rate and also overshadows the criminal justice system, with police constantly in the crossfire.