“I don’t think people realize who is affected by this.”
Many of the workers who clean the Trump administration’s offices and bathrooms are scrambling to figure out a path forward after government officials rolled back one of the country’s largest humanitarian immigration programs.
Helen Avalos, who cleans hospital rooms at Walter Reed National Medical Center, broke down in tears on Monday as President Trump announced that after July 2019, about 260,000 Salvadoran immigrants with Temporary Protected Status would no longer be able to live and work legally in the United States.
“It shattered my world,” Avalos said in Spanish over the phone shortly after the announcement. She has two American children and obtained TPS in 2002. “All the nurses started asking me what was wrong; I don’t think people realize who is affected by this.”
Avalos said that she and 45 other janitors at Walter Reed have TPS. They will probably lose their jobs because they will no longer have valid Social Security cards after the program ends. Avalos applied for US citizenship through her American husband nearly a year ago, but she isn’t confident she will get it.
Avalos and her co-workers are far from alone. About 9,000 janitors and maintenance workers from El Salvador — many of whom have Temporary Protected Status — have been sweeping, scrubbing, and vacuuming government buildings in the nation’s capital for decades. I interviewed several of them after they heard the news. They have cleaned places like the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Agriculture, Ronald Reagan National Airport, and Walter Reed National Medical Center, where members of Congress and presidents are treated. These workers all face major uncertainty in light of this policy change.