The Trump administration has decided to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program that allowed nearly 200,000 citizens of El Salvador to reside legally in the United States. In 2017, the Trump administration decided not to renew similar programs for citizens of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. TPS was intended to provide temporary humanitarian relief to foreign nationals from countries struck by serious conflict or natural disasters. 

Like the people of Nicaragua and Haiti, the Salvadorans covered by TPS came to the U.S. following earthquakes. They will have to leave the U.S. by September 2019 or obtain other legal options to stay in the country. As a result, El Salvador will see major repercussions. The biggest source of foreign exchange for the tiny Central American nation of 6.2 million people are the dollars sent home by Salvadorans living in the United States and elsewhere. The country is a major transit point for narcotics and has been severely challenged by criminal narco-terrorist organizations such as MS-13, which have continued to extort, rob, and kill thousands in El Salvador.

The Obama administration extended protections for 18 months in 2016, having concluded that El Salvador was still suffering from the consequences of the 2001 earthquakes that killed more than 1,000 people and thus unable to absorb such a large wave of people returning.

Salvadorans are by far the largest group of foreign nationals covered by TPS. 45,000 Haitians and Nicaraguans lost TPS status last year, and Hondurans may be next. Immigration advocates in the United States, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the government of El Salvador have called on the Trump administration to extend TPS, as was done by the federal government under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Some of the foreign nationals covered by TPS have American-citizen children. TPS was signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990.

Besides foreign nationals covered by TPS, nearly 800,000 young illegal immigrants known as Dreamers, who are covered by Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, will lose their protection from deportation in March unless Congress grants legal status to them. 

TPS provides temporary lawful resident status and work authorization to foreigners already in the United States, whether they entered legally or not, from countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster, or other strife. When a country merits the designation, the Department of Homeland Security can renew it without limit for six, 12 or 18 months. In the past, countries that have received and then lost the designation in the past include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Andrew R. Arthur of the Center for Immigration Studies wrote the group’s website: “In an October 2017 post, I criticized the decades-long extensions of TPS granted to various countries, including El Salvador. Since then, Honduras' TPS designation was extended by then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke through July 5, 2018; Nicaragua's designation was terminated effective January 5, 2019; and Haiti's designation was terminated effective July 22, 2019.

“As Congress considers how to address the issue of the estimated 690,000 aliens who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), pressure will likely build to grant some permanent status to the nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, and possibly Nicaragua, who have been residing in the United States under TPS. CRS estimates the total population of TPS re-registrants from those countries at just over 300,000.”



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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