Ending all speculation, the Secretary of Homeland Security has announced the end of temporary protected status (TPS) for approximately 200,000 Salvadorans who have been in the United States since 2001, following two earthquakes in El Salvador.
The termination will be delayed for 18 months, until September 9, 2019, to allow for “an orderly transition.” This follows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recent termination of TPS for Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. In her announcement, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said DHS conducted extensive research and outreach before coming to its decision. Among other things, the agency held community forums and met regularly with Salvadoran government officials as well as with the El Salvadorian Foreign Minister, the Ambassador to the U.S., and the President of El Salvador to determine whether the “original conditions” caused by the 2001 earthquakes still existed. They concluded that these conditions “no longer exist” and, therefore, Salvadorans in the U.S. are no longer eligible for TPS. The Secretary further noted that El Salvador is now capable of having its nationals return, as evidenced by the fact that, over the last two years, 39,000 individuals have been repatriated to El Salvador.
The 200,000 Salvadorans in TPS represent the largest group of nationals currently in the U.S. The actual number of affected persons is much larger, because the 200,000 figure does not include spouses and U.S.-citizen children. It also does not include companies that have employed these individuals who have been in the U.S. for close to 20 years. Figures indicate that the largest number of Salvadoran TPS holders live in Washington D.C., with smaller numbers living in Los Angeles, New York, and Houston. “Nearly one-third own their homes, according to a 2016 survey, and more than 60 percent have at least one child who is a U.S. citizen.”
Immigration advocates have noted that not only are these individuals fully assimilated into the U.S., but that it is not safe for anyone to return to El Salvador. The country suffers from a high rate of homicide and gang violence. They also argue the country cannot re-absorb such a large number of people. According to a Pew study, the government of El Salvador has asked that TPS be extended.
Salvadorans in TPS status will need to re-register for TPS in order to remain in the U.S. throughout the termination period. They cannot re-register until instructions are published in the Federal Register.
Haitians who learned in November 2017 that their TPS would be terminated are still awaiting instructions.
In the meantime, in certain circumstances there may be other immigration statuses available to some TPS holders.