Trump Administration Ends Temporary Protected Status for 200,000 Immigrants from El Salvador

The Homeland Security Department says TPS status for El Salvador will end in September of 2019. Immigrants, activists and elected officials denounced the plan at a news conference in New York Monday.
Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

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.”

When asked whether the move would result in U.S. customs officials targeting Salvadorans who try to remain in the U.S. without documentation after September of 2019, an administration official on a briefing phone call said that the agency’s top priority remains the deportation of criminals and people deemed dangerous to society. But he added that Homeland Security would not “exempt entire classes of people.”

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. The U.S. government says Salvadorans with TPS must register one more time if they want to keep working through the fall of 2019, but it added that it wasn’t yet announcing the final re-registration period.

In a news release about its decision, Homeland Security said that Salvadorans should use the 18-month delay to either leave the U.S. or “seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible.”

The agency also called on Congress to act, saying that only a change to U.S. law would provide a “permanent solution” for people who have for years been living and working in the U.S.

“The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution,” DHS said.

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SOURCE: NPR, Bill Chappell