March 22nd, 2011
09:03 PM ET
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNN) - Several hundred protestors took to the streets in El Salvador’s capital city ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit here.
At two separate demonstrations, Salvadorans spoke out against U.S. immigration policy, U.S. military installations in Central America, as well as the recent U.S. involvement in the situation in Libya.
Immigration is one of the issues President Obama discussed with his Salvadoran counterpart, as there are an estimated 217,000 undocumented Salvadorans with Temporary Protective Status (TPS) living in the U.S. Those Salvadorans send remittances back home, accounting for an estimated 17% of their country’s GDP.
The Salvadorans initially received TPS in 2001 after a series of devastating earthquakes in El Salvador, and they must remain in the U.S. or they will forego that status. The Department of Homeland Security has renewed this policy every few years since 2001; the latest extension expires in March of 2012.
Many Salvadorans believe these renewals only delay comprehensive and permanent immigration reform.
“We can’t solve this problem without taking a broad, comprehensive approach, and that will benefit not only those Salvadorans who are living in the United States, but it also, more importantly, from the perspective of the region, can ensure that relations between neighbors and trade and economic relations between neighbors is more orderly, more secure, more regularized. It is the right thing to do, this is the time to do it, and I will continue to push hard to make it happen,” he said.
Some of the more radical protestors, many of whom marched with red flags sporting a hammer and sickle, also denounced American service members who are stationed in Central America.
“¡Ni manos ni bota gringos en Centroamerica! ¡Somos pueblos dignos!” a flier read, which was distributed by participants.
Translated, that reads: “Neither American hands nor boots in Central America! We are honorable people!”
But most Salvadorans welcomed the First Family with open arms. Across the city signs and billboards lined the streets with the greeting “Bienvenido Presidente Obama.”