Some 200,000 people could have to leave the U.S. or face deportation as the Trump administration announced it is ending special protections for Salvadoran immigrants, officials said Monday.
Many people from El Salvador have been in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status, a designation that allows certain nations' citizens to remain in America due to a variety of safety concerns. But that temporary status will end in 2019, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
El Salvador is by far the largest beneficiary of the program, according to the Associated Press.
What is Temporary Protected Status?
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a special designation that provides humanitarian relief for foreigners whose countries are hit with some unsafe condition – such as a natural disaster or war.
These protections could be granted to entire countries or parts of countries, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). TPS can also be granted to immigrants who are already in the U.S.
Circumstances that could warrant TPS include: ongoing armed conflict, civil war, environmental disaster or an epidemic.
Those who have TPS status cannot be detained by Homeland Security because of his or her immigration status, USCIS said. These individuals are also not removable from the U.S., can receive travel authorization and can obtain an employment authorization document, according to USCIS.
People who have been convicted of a felony or at least two misdemeanors are not eligible for this protection. Additionally, individuals who are found to be “participating in the persecution of another individual or engaging in or inciting terrorist activity,” may not be eligible for TPS, according to USCIS.
Why was it granted to Salvadorans?
Salvadoran immigrants were granted TPS following the devastating earthquakes that struck Central America in 2001. Many immigrants have since established deep roots in the U.S., starting families and businesses over decades.
TPS for El Salvador had been extended through March 9, 2018, according to USCIS.
However, the status will be officially terminated as of Sept. 9, 2019, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen said Monday, giving immigrants 18 months to leave the country or face deportation.
Why would the Trump administration cut it?
DHS said the decision to terminate TPS for Salvadoran immigrants was made following a review of the situation that prompted the initial designation.
The unsafe conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes are no longer an issue, DHS said in a press release, citing “a significant amount of international aid to assist [El Salvador] in its recovery efforts.”
"Getting them to a permanent solution is a much better plan than having them live six months to 12 months to 18 months (in the U.S.)," Nielsen told the Associated Press last week.
What other countries have lost TPS under the Trump administration?
Protections have already been ended for Haitians by Nielsen’s predecessor, then-acting Secretary Elaine Duke. About 50,000 Haitians are required to leave the U.S. or adjust their legal status by July 22, 2019.
Duke also ended protections for Nicaraguans, giving some 2,500 people until Jan. 5, 2019 to make a decision about their futures.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.