Oscar Luna is a client of AFSC Iowa’s Immigration Legal Services Program. Like dozens of other Iowans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), he has visited AFSC’s office every 18 months to renew this legal status. With the Trump Administration’s decision to end TPS for El Salvador and other countries effective in 2019, Oscar’s life is in limbo as he faces difficult questions. He shares his story below.
I’m Salvadoran. I came to the US in 1999. In February of 2000, we had TPS and its benefits. At that time, I was single and 27-years-old, looking for a better future for my family, my brother and my mom. I came alone to find the American Dream.
I applied for and received TPS. A lot of people were saying, this was a temporary status, but there were rumors that someday we would get residency.
After those first years, I met someone, my wife. She is undocumented, as well, a Mexican woman. I got TPS, which helped me find a better job. I started first in an apartment, and later took in a small house. I paid for the house in the first eight years.
After four years of marriage, we had our first kid, our daughter, who was fine. Then the next year we had our son, so we’d started our family.
Now, everything will be changed. We have been in the US for 18 years. Now I’m 45 years old. To go back to my country, somebody told me you need to sell everything, my home, my cars, all I’ve built up. We’ve changed houses, obviously, because the family has grown up.
Going back to my country, I’m not going to find any jobs as a 45-year-old guy. Here I’ve learned to speak English, I learned to drive (because I didn’t have a car in my country). If I were younger or didn’t have kids, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big trouble.
But now, things are different. My daughter was born in this country. Now she’s 15, a teenager. My son is a year younger, 14. He has autism. Here, there are a lot of benefits for him because he’s an American citizen. In his early years, he went to Smouse, a special school for kids with autism. In more recent years he’s been going to Ruby Van Meter School. He can’t talk and has a lot of disorder in terms of paying attention. He has trouble focusing, as many of the autistic kids do. We try to take care of him.
My wife doesn’t receive any benefits because she doesn’t have legal status. The government doesn’t give us any help in that way. To me, I can take care of my kids, if I have a job. But now that’s out.
When I came to this country, I never came with the idea of becoming a citizen. I’m not interested in the politics of this country or influencing US politics. Americans have made a great country, and they’re doing the best job they can do.
In my case, I’m just looking to hold on to my job. That’s it. A job, and some safety for my son and daughter, because they were born here, they’re Americans.
The Mexican situation is another story. I know it, I crossed Mexico. In El Salvador we have the gangs, too. That’s no place for an autistic teenager or for my daughter who is 15
That’s our concern. We have a year now until the end of TPS. I don’t know what’s going on, or what will happen.
When I first came to the US, I was working in a janitorial service, cleaning offices and such. That’s when I met my wife. We made just a few dollars, you know, the bottom of the bottom. The cheapest jobs, but enough for two people.
Now, with the disability of my kid, I looked for a better job in production. I tried to figure out how to have enough money, with only my check, because my wife can’t work because she’s taking care of the kids all the time, and my daughter, too, for all these years. when she’s busy or has to go to school.
Currently I’m working for Kemin Industries. It’s a really nice company. The boss and owner is a really good man. I’ve been working for them for the past 11 years. I don’t have any trouble with them, I have a good position. Learning English and the skills there, talking with Americans.
For more information about AFSC Iowa’s Immigration Legal Services Program, please contact Program Director Jody Mashek.