Remittances grew in 2018

Salvadorans living abroad set another record for sending remittances back to their home country in 2018.   According to El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank, total remittances were $5.47 billion in 2018, growing 8.4%  over 2017, or $425.7 million.

That's really a pretty amazing figure when you stop to think about it.  Using an estimated population of 6.58 million living within El Salvador, yields an average remittance for every man, woman and child of  $ 831. 

But those remittance figures are in jeopardy for 2019.   Not because I think deportations from the US will significantly rise --  deportations are likely to remain the same or actually decline since  US immigration courts are closed by the government shutdown. 

Instead, the biggest threat to remittance levels is the cancellation of Temporary Protected Status as of September 2019 for almost 200,000 Salvadorans living in the US.   That cancellation is currently the subject of a court injunction staying the cancellation of TPS for now, but further court proceedings and appeals could reverse that decision.    A cancellation of TPS would not mean the immediate deportation of thousands and thousands of Salvadorans, but importantly for remittances, the cancellation would eliminate the legal work authorization that all TPS holders enjoy.   Salvadoran workers could lose their jobs, or be forced into an underground cash economy with much lower wages.    Remittances which come out of those wages would necessarily be significantly impacted.

It is not easy to determine what percentage of total remittances represents the portion sent by TPS holders.   But virtually all TPS holders are of prime working age (the youngest would be 18 today) and they have been able to enjoy legal status and working since 2001, something that Salvadorans who entered in an undocumented fashion after 2001 do not.

El Salvador's government does not like to admit it, but remittances are a key engine keeping its economy going and keeping many families above desperate poverty levels.    The government had better hope that the ACLU lawyers suing to block the TPS cancellation have continued success. 

Hat tip to Fritz for suggesting this story. Disclosure -- I am a staff attorney for the ACLU when I am not writing about El Salvador.