The Trump administration announced plans Monday to end protections dating back to 2001, which have allowed at least 260,000 immigrants from El Salvador to stay in the U.S. with temporary legal status, The Wall Street Journal reported.
A statement from the Department of Homeland Security noted that protections will not end until September 2019 in order “to allow for an orderly transition.”
The Temporary Protected Status program was introduced by Congress in 1990.
It was intended to offer temporary relief for migrants whose countries were notably affected by natural disasters or war, The Washington Post reported.
Many Salvadorans were granted the ability to apply for TPS in 2001, after two earthquakes wrecked much of the Central American country.
DHS took steps to verify that conditions in El Salvador had changed since the initiative was first introduced 16 years ago.
“The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador was made after a review of the disaster-related conditions upon which the country’s original designation was based and an assessment of whether those originating conditions continue to exist as required by statute,” the department’s statement read.
Despite the fact that it was a temporary program, extending TPS for Salvadorans for over a decade has created a situation where many immigrants have put down roots, purchased homes and thought they were on their way to earning permanent legal status.
“I consider this my country,” one such Salvadoran, Oscar Cortez, told The Post.
The Maryland resident works as a plumber and owns a townhouse outside of Washington, D.C.
“Behind us there are children and wives and nephews and nieces and mothers and fathers who depend on us,” he said. “It doesn’t affect one person. It affects a ton of people.”
DHS did note, however, that the 2019 deadline allows Congress 18 months to potentially offer an alternative legal status.
However, the vast number of immigration-related issues — including the 2017 repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — as well as other TPS recipients from other countries, could make that a challenging feet.
The Trump administration had previously announced the end of TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans, but Salvadorans remain the largest group who benefit from the program, according to The Journal.
“The Trump Administration once again has reneged on a long-held American tradition and has added 200,000 Salvadoran families to their long list of undocumented immigrants it wishes to deport,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
However, according to Nolo.com, a legal advice website, Temporary Protected Status was just that — temporary. As such, the site explained, the program does not provide a path to a green card or citizenship on its own.
“Even if you were to live and work legally in the United States as a TPS beneficiary for many years, there is no route to permanent residence (i.e., a green card) that will follow simply from a grant of TPS,” the website says.
Nolo did point out that it is possible to acquire permanent legal status from another event, like marriage to a U.S. citizen or sponsorship from an employer.
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