The Trump administration says it will end the temporary protected status that has allowed some 200,000 natives of El Salvador to live in the U.S. without fear of deportation for nearly 17 years, the Department of Homeland Security says.
In announcing the designation’s end, DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen also said she’s extending it for another 18 months, to Sept. 9, 2019 — a delay that her agency says is to ensure “an orderly transition.”
The move upends a status quo that has existed since 2001, when President George W. Bush extended Temporary Protected Status to Salvadorans who were in the U.S., after major earthquakes devastated parts of El Salvador.
As NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports, “The vast majority of [Salvadorans] that were here in the country living illegally at the time had fled in the 1980s and ’90s, during the decades of the U.S.-backed civil war in the country and unrest there.”
People who live in the U.S. under the TPS program have done so under a series of 18-month extensions that have rendered it semi-permanent — a condition that has been welcomed by immigrants and criticized by those who want to see a strict overhaul of U.S. border controls. To maintain their work authorization, TPS immigrants pay hundreds of dollars in fees for permits every 18 months.
TPS immigrants’ home countries have often lobbied to maintain the status, in part because it smooths the process both of finding work in the U.S. and of sending money back home.
In the case of El Salvador, the country remains wracked by violence and poverty.
“Remittances are at an all-time high,” Carrie reports. “Those are dollars coming back home from relatives abroad. That accounts for nearly a fifth of El Salvador’s GDP. That’s a huge loss to such a poor country.”
When President Trump took office, a total of more than 300,000 immigrants were allowed to live in the U.S. legally under the TPS exception. Of that number, the majority were originally from El Salvador; the two other main nationalities with TPS status are Hondurans — some 57,000 of whom will learn their fate in July — and Haitians — about 46,000 of whom have already been told their TPS status will end.
Last week, Homeland Security said it would end TPS status for Nicaragua, which has some 2,500 citizens in the U.S. under the protective status.
Other countries whose citizens in the U.S. are protected under TPS rules include Nepal, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and South Sudan.