U.S. Ends Protected Status for 200,000 Salvadorans

The United States will end the temporary protected status (TPS) on Sept. 9, 2019, giving Salvadorans 18 months to leave or seek lawful residency, and for El Salvador to prepare for their return.

Salvadoran immigrant Mirna Portillo watches on during a media conference at the New York Immigration Coalition following President Donald Trump's announcement to end the Temporary Protection Status for Salvadoran immigrants in Manhattan, N.Y., January 8, 2018. / REUTERS

(Reuters) — Some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants allowed to live and work in the United States since 2001 will lose their right to remain in the country in 2019, officials said on Monday, marking the Trump administration’s latest move to tighten immigration enforcement.

The United States will end the Salvadorans’ temporary protected status (TPS) on Sept. 9, 2019, giving them 18 months to leave or seek lawful residency, and for El Salvador to prepare for their return, officials said. The status was granted in the wake of two devastating 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador that left hundreds of thousands in the country homeless.

The decision to end TPS for Salvadorans is part of the administration’s broader push to tighten immigration laws and expel those living in the United States illegally. The move was heavily criticized by immigrant advocates who said it ignored violence in El Salvador and gave the Salvadorans few options but to leave the United States or remain illegally.

The Trump administration has faced a series of deadlines over the past year to decide whether to end the protected status of immigrants in the United States whose home countries have been affected by disasters.

Salvadorans are by far the largest group under TPS, a program administration officials said is supposed to provide a temporary haven for victims, not a permanent right to remain in the United States.

Critics have complained TPS has allowed participants to repeatedly extend their stays in six- to 18-month increments.

Trump administration changes to the TPS program mean that over the next two years approximately 250,000 people who previously had permission to live and work in the United States will be subject to deportation if they remain.

Haitians and Nicaraguans will lose their protected status in 2019 and Hondurans, the second largest group in the program, could lose their rights later this year.

“The past practice of allowing foreign nationals to remain in the United States long after an initial emergency in their home countries has ended has undermined the integrity of the program and essentially made the ‘temporary’ protected status a front operation for backdoor permanent immigration,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which favors less immigration overall.

Advocates of the program say long-term resident Salvadorans and their children should not be sent back to El Salvador, a country struggling with a weak economy and gang violence that has given it one of the world’s highest murder rates.

“Our government is complicit in breaking up families — nearly 275,000 U.S.-born children have a parent who is a TPS holder — and further destabilizing our neighboring countries,” said Oscar Chacon, executive director of Alianza Americas, an immigrant advocacy group.

A senior administration official briefing reporters on the decision said it was based on the status of El Salvador’s recovery from the 2001 earthquakes. The country has received millions of dollars in aid for the recovery and rebuilt schools, homes and hospitals, the official said.

In the past two years, the United States has repatriated 39,000 Salvadorans back to the country, showing the ability of the country to absorb an influx of its citizens, the official said.

The government of El Salvador said Monday it was glad the administration decided to at least leave the program in place until September 2019.

“El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry lobbied heavily for the interests of our fellow citizens,” the government said in a statement, adding that it would continue to search for alternative solutions, seeking action by the U.S. Congress to protect the immigrants.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had urged the government to extend TPS protections for Salvadorans, Haitians and Hondurans, saying “the loss of employment authorization for these populations would adversely impact several key industries,” including “construction, food processing, hospitality, and home healthcare services.”

Patricia Hernandez, 53, arrived in the United States in 2000 and applied for TPS after the 2001 earthquakes. She has lived in North Carolina for 18 years and runs a subcontracting construction business with her Honduran husband. The couple have two U.S.-born teenage sons.

“This is a real blow for everyone,” said Hernandez by telephone. “Most of us pay taxes, we’re not living off the government, we’re not criminals.”

The family will move to Honduras with their children and the couple do not intend to return north, she said, though they worry about violence and political instability in central America.

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    • Would seem at least somewhat better than ethnic cleansing, the Rwandan way, the Cambodian way, the Nazi Germany way, the former Yugoslavia /Serbia way, the Ugandan way, the Iraq way, the Syria way, the Soviet way, the Yemeni way, the Myanmar way..etc.

      • We have the longest lived Constitution in known human history. The only one the first one to codify rights being given by the creator, not the government. Our Constitution ensures the people in our country can pursue their potential without discrimination, although we’re far from perfect, this is the reason why we have better GDP per capita than any other large developed nation.

        It was also what Martin Luther King referred to in his “I have a dream” speech in 1963. In essence, he said that, although we have these wonderful values codified in our Constitution, that for Black people the “check” had been returned marked “insufficient funds”. He rejected that notion and said we are better than that.

        If you look at our Constitution, you will see that it applies to everybody, not just those with “papers”. The move of our government to end protection of our neighbors who are from El Salvador is a disgrace. It is the move of a man who had never even read the Constitution but swore to defend it – a man who has never served anybody for any reason ever in his life. A man who thinks he is superior because he inherited money. A liar, a charlatan, but self described “like, really smart”. A jackass.

        It’s disgusting. You’re done for today, no more comments.

  • Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
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    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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