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Earlier this month, the White House announced it was ending so-called “temporary protected status” for some 200,000 Salvadoran migrants living in the United States. The migrants were allowed into the US following two major earthquakes in 2001. El Salvador is a poor, small country. Reintegrating 200,000 people will likely be a highly destabilizing process and certainly very expensive. According to reports in Al Jazeera and Reuters, the government of El Salvador is in talks with Qatar to see if those migrants expelled from the US can be sent to Qatar.

There are a number of questions raised but not adequately addressed by the Al Jazeera article. One is: is this voluntary? Will the people expelled from the US have a choice? Even if not literally forced, if there’s no re-integration support in El Salvador a nominal choice may be no choice at all.

Another point: Qatar and most of the Gulf emirates have atrocious human rights records for foreign guest workers. This isn’t like having a green card in the US and then getting an equivalent work status in Germany.

We shouldn’t be unsympathetic to the plight of the Salvadoran government in this case. El Salvador is a country of approximately 6.2 million people. Absorbing 200,000 people is a big, big deal, one they have very good reason to want to avoid. But guest workers in Qatar and other Gulf states are often treated like indentured laborers. It’s not a good place to be.

I’m curious to hear from anyone who might have more information about this.

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