El Salvadorans Will Lose Protected Immigration Status in 2019

January 8, 2018Alerts

Immigrants from El Salvador who were granted Temporary Protected Status in 2001 due to devastating earthquakes in their native land will lose that status in September 2019, the Department of Homeland Security has announced.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen said the 18-month delay will allow Congress an opportunity to draft a legislative response to TPS statues, and to give current TPS recipients time to arrange departures or to apply for an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible. The consequences of the termination and its effect on American businesses were reportedly not part of Nielsen’s decision-making process. Trump administration officials emphasized the temporary protections offered by TPS and have repeatedly considered the enforcement of the program as American immigration policy gone awry.

Until the official termination of their designation, Salvadorans with TPS will be required to re-register and apply for Employment Authorization Documents to legally work in the United States. The re-registration period was announced through a Federal Register notice.

The Jan. 8 notice, published by the DHS, said that TPS for Salvadorans was terminated because the country’s dire conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist. Per statute, TPS designation is removed once a country’s originating conditions are gone.

Following the 2001 earthquake, Salvadorans were granted Temporary Protected Status, which has been renewed every 18 months. According to the DHS, El Salvador’s living conditions have been restored since the earthquake. Officials note that many of the country's reconstruction projects have now been completed, including the rebuilding or repair of schools, hospitals and homes, as well as water, sanitation and infrastructure systems. The DHS also identified that the U.S. government has deported more than 39,000 Salvadorans in the past two years, demonstrating, it said, “that the temporary inability of El Salvador to adequately return their nationals after the earthquake has been addressed.”

The DHS conducted extensive outreach to Salvadoran communities throughout the United States and made its decision based on consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, 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 Salvadorian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States, and spoke with President Sánchez Cerén.

Estimates differ for exact number of immigrants the decision will affect. DHS officials said 262,500 Salvadorans have been granted TPS permits, but activists and experts have put the number closer to 200,000, noting that official statistics may include those who have left the TPS program or the U.S. 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 destabilizing effect of so many people being sent home. Others urged her to consider the approximately 190,000 U.S.-born children of Salvadoran TPS recipients. Their parents face a difficult decision: they can divide their families, take them all to El Salvador or stay in the U.S. and risk deportation.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with knowledgeable legal counsel to determine how applicable laws apply to specific facts and situations. This publication is based on the most current information at the time it was written. Since it is possible that the laws or other circumstances may have changed since publication, please call us to discuss any action you may be considering as a result of reading this publication.