The Trump administration will end the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) of about 200,000 nonimmigrant Salvadorans, according to a Jan. 8 statement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
This group of Salvadorans will have until Sept. 9, 2019—roughly 600 days—to set their affairs in order and leave the United States. The government is expected to send announcements to those affected.
The TPS program grants temporary legal status and work authorization to nonimmigrant aliens in the United States who are from countries affected by natural disasters, conflict, or other extreme adversity.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen determined that the original conditions for granting TPS to Salvadorans—the aftermath of a series of earthquakes that killed 1,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes—no longer exist.
“Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated,” the DHS statement said. “In recent years, the U.S. government has been repatriating individuals back to El Salvador—more than 39,000 in the last two years—demonstrating that the temporary inability of El Salvador to adequately return their nationals after the earthquake has been addressed.”
Salvadorans are the largest group of nonimmigrant aliens to receive TPS designation, the second-largest being a group of 45,000 Haitians whose temporary status expired in November last year.
While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to reform immigration, especially by reining in illegal immigration. The decision to end TPS for Salvadorans is the latest in a series meant to deliver on that promise. It also connects with Trump’s promise to eradicate the brutal MS-13 gang.
El Salvador became MS-13’s new home when federal authorities deported thousands of gang members back to the country over the course of more than a decade starting in the 1990s.
The United States’ porous border and immigration enforcement policies allowed MS-13 members to return to the United States after establishing cells in El Salvador. Today, an estimated 10,000 MS-13 gang members are believed to be in the United States.
The Trump administration has faced a series of deadlines over the past year to decide whether to end the protected status of immigrants whose home countries have been affected by disasters. Critics and administration officials have said TPS is supposed to provide a temporary haven for victims, not a permanent status in the United States.
“We need to put the ‘T’ back into TPS,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The New York Times. “It has to be temporary. This has gone on far too long.”
Taken together, the decisions by the Trump administration mean approximately 250,000 people who previously had permission to live and work in the United States will, over the course of the next two years, lose those protections and be open to deportation if they choose to stay in the country.
Haitians and Nicaraguans will lose their protected status in 2019 and Hondurans could lose theirs later this year. South Sudanese immigrants’ protected status was extended until May 2019.
Critics have complained the TPS program allows participants to repeatedly extend their stays in six- to 18-month increments in case of a natural disaster, civil strife, or other emergencies in their homelands.
Reuters contributed to this report.
What is MS-13?