WASHINGTON – The government plans to eliminate Temporary Protected Status for more than 250,000 Salvadorans living in the United States, but the change won’t take effect until September 2019, a senior official said Monday.
The Department of Homeland Security justified the decision by saying that “the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist,” and that was the initial reason that TPS was granted to a total of 263,282 Salvadorans up through the end of 2016, according to official figures provided to EFE.
When asked about whether the ongoing high level of violence in the Central American country had been considered at the time the decision to revoke TPS was made, with this being the reason cited by activists calling for its extension, the government official emphasized that only the factors whereby TPS was originally granted had been considered, and no others.
DHS said that the 18-month period would allow El Salvador “to prepare for the return and reintegration of its citizens” or for those affected to find some other way to remain in the US legally.
The Salvadoran government, the Salvadoran community in the US and pro-immigrant activists have been battling in recent months to get TPS extended or at least to have its cancellation delayed by six months, as the government did with the TPS program for Hondurans.
However, the Donald Trump administration decided to adhere to its hard line on immigration and end the program for Salvadorans after having done the same for TPS as applied to Nicaraguans and Haitians.
The US decided to grant this protection to Salvadorans who were in this country in February 2001 after the devastating earthquakes that struck their homeland that year, but the measure provided immigration protection to other nationals who had arrived decades earlier (during the 1980s and ‘90s) fleeing the Salvadoran civil war and its consequences.
Under the presidency of Republican George H.W. Bush (1989-1993), Congress established a procedure permitting the federal government to authorize – under extraordinary circumstances – temporary residence and permission to work to citizens of countries affected by armed conflict, epidemics or natural disasters.
TPS did not, however, open a route to permanent residence or any other immigration status and thus, with the US decision to end it, its beneficiaries will have to return to their homelands or face involuntary deportation if they elect to remain here as undocumented migrants.