He's from El Salvador. They're American. Trump could separate them.

Rogelio Galdamez has a worried look on his face, unsure if the home he's building will be finished in time.Fo...

Posted: Jan 15, 2018 6:31 AM
Updated: Jan 15, 2018 6:31 AM

Rogelio Galdamez has a worried look on his face, unsure if the home he's building will be finished in time.

For the past five years, he's been gradually putting as much money as he can-toward building a home where he grew up near the border between El Salvador and Honduras.

But Galdamez is now suddenly-in a much bigger rush.

Last week, the Trump administration announced the end of a policy granting Temporary Protected Status to more than 250,000 Salvadorans who fled the country's civil war and natural disasters.

Salvadoran immigrants once protected by TPS will have 18 months before they will lose their legal status and could be forced to return home.

One of those people facing deportation is Galdamez ,-who says he has lived legally in the United States under TPS since 2001. He went back to El Salvador to see family on vacation recently -- and picked up the pace on construction.

"I am not waiting around because there are many others," Galdamez said as he worked on his home on the top of a remote hillside. "There are many that don't have anything and are not prepared. I don't want to be in the situation where I am not ready."

Journey to America: 'I ate rotten food but I made it'

Galdamez , 47, left El Salvador for the US in 1999 when his country was still recovering from years of devastating civil war.

As a boy, he said, he watched military planes bomb nearby hillsides as they hunted for communist guerrillas.

Guerrillas seeking shelter would come and kick his family out of their house. If you refused to leave they would shoot you, he said. Galdamez decided to head north.

"I slept on mountains, I drank dirty water, I ate rotten food but I made it," he said of his trip overland through Central America and Mexico to make it to the US.

Then, in January 2001, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake devastated El Salvador. More than 1,100 people were killed, an additional 1.3 million were displaced.

Salvadorans who were in the US before the earthquake in their native country qualified for TPS because the thinking at the time was that they couldn't return to an earthquake-ravaged nation. Today, TPS protectees are allowed to travel outside the US but Galdamez says he must pay a $665 fee to the US government for each trip.

Once in the US, Galdamez recalled, he worked on docks and vineyards. He is currently a driver for a landscaping company about 90 miles east of New York City in Riverhead, New York.

Of his 10 siblings, nine eventually joined him in the US.

With legal status, Galdamez bought a home, paid taxes and raised his three children,-who were-all born in the US.

'Who will protect them?'

A rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment and-President Trump's election victory-made Galdamez worry that his immigration status could be revoked.

"Trump can't give a speech without talking about immigrants and treating us the way he treats us, saying we are criminals," Galdamez said. "We aren't criminals, we are workers."

But faced with the possibility of living illegally in the US and being separated from his family, Galdamez is considering a return to El Salvador.

That would mean bringing his three children--- Marelin, 15; Selhvin, 10; Josslin, 6 ---to a country where they have never lived. Galdamez is separated from the children's mother.

"They know nothing about El Salvador," Galdamez said. "But if-[immigration officials]-get me and send me back and my children will stay there, who will protect them?"

Marelin, Selhvin and Josslin would face a very different life than the one they know in the United States. They worry they might not ever be able to fit in.

Galdamez 's three children talk amongst themselves in English-rather than Spanish and say they are not used to the slow Internet and roosters that wake them every morning at 5am.

"For us it's going to be really hard," says Marelin,-a teenager who easily switches from English with her siblings to Spanish with her father.-"People look at you differently because you are from the United States. I keep telling him, 'I like it here, but I wouldn't live here.'"

They may not-have-much of a choice.

Other Salvadorans are also getting ready if they need to return home, Galdamez said. He has noticed it is harder to find workers to help the construction on his home.

One of the world's most dangerous countries

For decades, El Salvador has been wracked by gang violence, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world, according to the United Nations.

Even in the remote countryside where Galdamez is building his home, the gangs block roads to impose taxes and terrorize the population.

In just the first two weeks of 2018, at least 115 people have been murdered, police told CNN.-In 2016, there were 5,278 homicides in El Salvador, according to the most recent full-year statistics from the US State Department, which on Wednesday issued a Level 3 warning advising US citizens to reconsider travel to the country.

Exodus of Salvadorans: A huge economic blow

The end of TPS could also reduce some of the billions of dollars,-known as-remittances, that immigrants send home, a crucial influx of cash for the country.

Salvadorans sent home $4.5 billion to loved ones in the form of checks, wire transfers and greenbacks from January to November last year, according to the country's central bank.

Remittances equal nearly one-fifth of El Salvador's entire economy. The 2017 figure is on pace to become the all-time high for remittances, according to central bank numbers.

The amount of money sent home to loved ones also dwarfs the $88 million that El Salvador received in aid from the United States last year.

Experts say Salvadorans in the United States could decide to send as much money home as possible before the protections end in 2019. They also caution that American employers may fire Salvadoran employees who will lose their ability to keep a job.

Related: Trump clamps down on El Salvador's 'lifeline'

"The worry is that if there were a massive deportation," Galdamez said, "This would become, I guess I would call it a hell. It's a disaster. Everyone wants to work but there isn't any."

Still, Galdamez said his only priority now is to keep his family together.

"The day I am not with them and they are not with me," he said, "I think they are going to suffer and I will, too."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 33068

Reported Deaths: 2068
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9524558
Lake3494175
Cass15897
Allen141966
St. Joseph122134
Hendricks114268
Hamilton113292
Elkhart110128
Johnson1092106
Madison58459
Porter50522
Bartholomew49034
Clark47941
LaPorte42022
Tippecanoe3823
Howard37824
Delaware37636
Jackson3721
Shelby36822
Hancock32727
Floyd31739
Boone30535
Morgan27724
Vanderburgh2592
Montgomery23417
White2308
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Noble20421
Grant19721
Dubois1903
Harrison18921
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16512
Warrick16528
Dearborn16521
Vigo1538
Lawrence15223
Miami1401
Putnam1357
Jennings1294
Orange12422
Scott1203
Ripley1106
Franklin1098
Kosciusko1011
Carroll933
Daviess8416
Steuben812
Marshall801
Newton7610
Wayne756
Fayette747
Wabash742
LaGrange682
Jasper661
Washington511
Jay490
Fulton471
Clay461
Rush452
Randolph453
Jefferson431
Pulaski410
Whitley383
Owen351
Sullivan341
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke323
Perry280
Wells270
Benton260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford222
Parke190
Spencer191
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0161

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 115833

Reported Deaths: 5186
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook753063519
Lake7933281
DuPage7460350
Kane6083167
Will5356268
Winnebago209153
McHenry148870
St. Clair105077
Kankakee83644
Kendall75119
Rock Island63923
Champaign5957
Madison54557
Boone42416
DeKalb3704
Sangamon34328
Randolph2674
Jackson25610
McLean21613
Ogle2002
Stephenson1992
Macon19219
Peoria1918
Out of IL1831
Clinton18017
Union1519
Unassigned1490
LaSalle14113
Whiteside13412
Iroquois1314
Coles12313
Warren1130
Jefferson10116
Knox960
Grundy952
Monroe9311
McDonough847
Lee791
Tazewell704
Cass690
Henry670
Williamson602
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin442
Perry410
Pulaski410
Montgomery391
Vermilion381
Morgan341
Christian334
Jo Daviess320
Livingston322
Douglas260
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Menard190
Mason180
Washington180
Woodford182
Hancock160
Mercer160
Shelby161
Bureau151
Carroll142
Bond121
Franklin120
Piatt120
Schuyler120
Clark110
Crawford110
Fulton110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 70°
Robinson
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Indianapolis
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 67°
Rockville
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 64°
Casey
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Brazil
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Marshall
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Showers Early, Cooler
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events