The Department of Homeland Security announced on January 8, 2018, the decision to end the temporary protected status for El Salvador. The termination of the TPS designation will affect the 200,000 Salvadorans legally living in the U.S.
According to NBC News, Salvadorans living under TPS will have until September 9, 2019 to apply for citizenship in the United States. If they choose not to seek permanent residency, they may face deportation.
“[The 18 months] will provide time with individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure, or if eligible, to do the necessary paperwork to remain in the United States,” said one senior administration official.
The decision didn’t go unchallenged by the American people. Protesters gathered outside the White House after the Washington Post first reported the decision. The group called for Congress to fix the decision and chanted, “Donald Trump, shame on you.”
“These are people who have been living by the rules,” said Jaime Contreras, vice president of the 32BJ Service Employees International Union, “getting background checks every 18 months, getting their fingerprints for more than 20 years.”
The decision to end TPS for El Salvador is just one domino in TPS repeals. In 2017, the Trump administration also ended TPS for Haiti and Nicaragua.
Salvadorans were first granted protective status after the country suffered from a 7.6 M earthquake in 2001. The earthquake left 944 dead and 5,565 injured.
Since 2001, El Salvador has recovered from the earthquake but hasn’t recovered from severe crime rates and poverty. Named the most violent country in the world by The Los Angeles Times, El Salvador experienced 6,656 murders in 2015 alone. By deporting the 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S., not only would people’s lives and the U.S. economy be devastated, but thousands of people would be sent to the equivalent of a war zone.
“The past practice of allowing foreign nationals to remain in the United States longer after an initial emergency in their home countries … has undermined the integrity of the program,” said Roy Beck of NumbersUSA.
However, those who have lived under TPS for so long have come so far as to restart their lives in the United States. The average 30-year-old has moved up to six times in their life. Salvadorans in the U.S. living under TPS work in the U.S. legally and many have American children.
What’s more, according to a senior administration official, the Trump administration failed to consider the gang-related violence in El Salvador when they decided to end TPS.
“Just imagining that [our parents] will no longer be in our lives is a nightmare,” said Long Island native Rodman Serrano to Voices of New York. “Especially knowing that, if they are sent back to a country like El Salvador, where there is no job security and where there is so much violence… They would die over there.”