The Department of Homeland Security is set to rescind protections for roughly 200,000 El Salvadoran nationals who have been living in the U.S. under a temporary relief program.
The Salvadorans will have until Sept. 9, 2019 to leave the U.S. or apply for another immigration benefit for which they may be eligible, administration officials said Monday. The 18-month delay is intended to give the Salvadorans a grace period to make travel arrangements and to help El Salvador prepare to reintegrate its citizens.
Under a designation known as temporary protected status (TPS), certain El Salvadoran nationals in the U.S., most of whom arrived illegally, can obtain protection from deportation and work permits. El Salvador originally received TPS directly from Congress in 1990 when the country was in the midst of a brutal civil war. The George W. Bush administration subsequently granted a TPS designation to El Salvador in 2001 after a series of earthquakes rocked the country.
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen determined that conditions in El Salvador have improved to the point where it is safe for TPS recipients to return, ending the need for continued relief, officials said. They pointed to the completion of recovery projects and an improving economy in El Salvador as evidence the country had fully recovered from the earthquakes.
The decision mirrors a similar determination the administration made in November, when it rescinded TPS for roughly 60,000 Haitians who had received protection following a major earthquake in Haiti in 2010. The Trump administration also canceled TPS for Nicaragua in November, giving roughly 2,500 Nicaraguan immigrants until January 2019 to leave the U.S. or apply for another immigration status.
In winding down the TPS designations, the Trump administration has stressed that the program is meant to provide temporary relief, not permanent residency or other long-term immigration status. The moves are consistent with the administration’s agenda to reduce levels of both legal and illegal immigration.
DHS officials said Monday that provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act require the department to terminate a TPS designation absent ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or another “extraordinary” condition. A long-term solution for Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries would have to be crafted by lawmakers, officials said.
“Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years,” DHS said in a statement. “The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution.”
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