In one of its most significant immigration decisions to date, the Trump
administration said Monday it will terminate the provisional residency
permits of about 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the country since
at least 2001, leaving them to potentially face deportation.
The administration said it will give the Salvadorans until Sept. 9, 2019,
to leave the United States or find a way to obtain legal residency, according
to a statement Monday from the Department of Homeland Security. The Salvadorans
were granted what is known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, after
earthquakes hit the country in 2001, and their permits have been renewed
on an 18-month basis since then.
Monday’s announcement was consistent with the White House’s
broader stated goal of reducing legal immigration to the United States
and intensifying efforts to expel those who arrived illegally. But Homeland
Security officials characterized the decision by Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
in narrower legal terms: as a recognition that conditions in El Salvador
had improved enough since the earthqaukes to make the TPS designation
no longer warranted.
“Based on careful consideration of available information, including
recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process,
the Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001
earthquakes no longer exist,” Monday’s DHS statement read.
“Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation
must be terminated.”
The DHS statement also noted that the U.S. government has deported more
than 39,000 Salvadorans in the past two years, demonstrationing, it said,
“that the temporary inability of El Salvador to adequately return
their nationals after the earthquake has been addressed.”
DHS officials said 262,500 Salvadorans have been granted TPS permits, but
recent estimates indicate the number of people who reside in the country
with that status is
closer to 200,000.
Immigrant advocates, Salvadoran government officials and many others had
implored Nielsen to extend the TPS designation, citing the country’s
horrific gang violence and the potentially destabilzing effect of so many
people being sent home.
Others urged her to consider the apporoximately 190,000 U.S.-born children
of Salvadoran TPS recipients. Their parents must now decide whether to
break up their families, take the whole family back to El Salvador, or
stay in the country and risk deportation.
Senior DHS officials told reporters Monday that the families would have
to make that decision, and that the impact on American businesses, among
other potential consquences of the TPS decision, were not part of Nielsen’s
decision-making process. They said it is up to Congress to determine a remedy.
“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,”
the DHS statement read. “The 18-month delayed termination will allow
Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution.”
[‘I consider this my country’: Salvadorans in U.S. devastated
by TPS decision]
Trump administration officials have repeatedly said they viewed the TPS
program as an example of American immigration policy gone awry, noting
that when Congress created the designation in 1990, its purpose was to
provide “temporary” protection from deportation following
a natural disaster, armed conflict or other calamity.
In November, DHS ended TPS for 60,000 Haitians who arrived after a 2010
earthquake, and for 2,500 Nicaraguan migrants protected after Hurricane
Mitch in 1998.
A six-month extension was recently granted to 57,000 Hondurans, a decision
made before Nielsen’s arrival by then-Acting DHS Secretary Elaine
Duke. That move
frustrated White House officials who wanted Duke to end the program.
Lawmakers from both parties who represent cities and states with large
immigrant populations blasted Monday’s DHS decision, including Rep.
James McGovern (D-Mass.), who called it “a shameful and cynical
move” whose purpose was to “score political points with the
extreme right wing Republican base.”
Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said he urged the Trump administration
to “reconsider” the TPS decision. “Since 2001, these
people have established themselves in the United States, making countless
contributions to our society and our local communities. It would be devastating
to send them home after they have created a humble living for themselves
and their families.”
There were new signs Monday that TPS could end up as a bargaining chip
in a potential congressional immigration deal. A source familiar with
the negotiations said Congress could step in to help the Salvadorans,
Haitians and other groups whose temporary protected status is now set
to expire in 2019.
Democrats and Republicans have been privately discussing the possibility
of curbing the diversity visa lottery program — which grants about
55,000 green cards each year to immigrants from nations with low immigration
rates to the United States — in exchange for extending TPS protections
as part of the talks over the fate of younger immigrants known as “dreamers”
who were brought to the country illegally as children.
President Trump has railed against the diversity program, saying that any
deal to provide legal status to the dreamers must get rid of it.
[Trump to end provisional residency protection for 60,000 Haitians]
“The fix has been in for these TPS decisions, regardless of the facts
on the ground in these countries,” said Kevin Appleby of the New
York-based Center for Migration Studies.
“The decision on El Salvador is particularly damaging,” he
said. “It not only will uproot families and children who have lived
here for years, it also will further destabilize an already violent country.
It is incredibly short-sighted and undermines our interest in a stable
DHS said in its announcement that it conducted extensive outreach to Salvadorans
living in the United States, including “community forums on TPS,
panel discussions with Salvadoran community organizers, stakeholder teleconferences,
regular meetings with TPS beneficiaries, news releases to the Salvadoran
community, meetings with Salvadoran government officials, meetings at
local churches, and listening sessions.”
Secretary Nielsen met recently with the El Salvador’s foreign minister
and U.S. ambassador, and spoke with President Sánchez Cerén,
according to the announcement sent to lawmakers.
Jaime Contreras, vice president of Local 32BJ, the largest property service
local in the Service Employees International Union, called Monday’s
decision “shameful.” In the Washington area, he said, TPS
recipients clean Ronald Reagan National Airport, the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund and “every major landmark you can think of.”
“They have families here. A lot of these people own homes,”
said Contreras, whose union represents about 160,000 commercial office
cleaners, security officers and others nationwide. “It’s time
for Congress to do the right thing.”
Ed O’Keefe, David Nakamura and Maria Sacchetti contributed to this report.
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