SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – El Salvador's foreign minister said Tuesday he hopes for a more permanent situation for the "temporary protected status" that currently shields about 190,000 Salvadoran migrants in the United States.
Hugo Martinez told local media that "it isn't a question of boxing ourselves into just an extension of the TPS," which has been extended several times by the U.S. since 2001.
"We should erase this word 'temporary' from the map," Martinez added, saying Salvadorans need "something better and more stable than the TPS."
He said about 260,000 Salvadorans got TPS after this country's 2001 earthquakes, but the number has declined to about 190,000. Their status has been renewed every 18 months, and it will be up for renewal again early next year.
In May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted just a six-month TPS extension for nearly 60,000 Haitians and officials suggested Haitians in the program should get their affairs in order so they would be ready to return home.
As for Central Americans, the department said, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly would review conditions and consult with appropriate agencies as the expiration date approaches next year.
El Salvadorans are worried about increased joblessness if all the migrants return home.
"Things are bad here and if this big number of people come back, forget it, we'll be eating one another," said Carmen Melendez, who lives in the capital, San Salvador.
Jose Guerra, an unemployed construction worker, said, "There will be more unemployment here, and crime could go up."
"It would be better for them to stay in the United States, there is no work here," Guerra said.