Immigrant rights advocates argue that it would be wrong for the U.S.to send Salvadorans back to a country with one of the worst homicide rates in the world, particularly when many have US citizen children who could be targets for gangs if they go with their parents.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed it would end special protections for Salvadoran immigrants, forcing almost 200,000 to leave the country or face deportation.
When the protections end, recipients revert to the status they have otherwise, which would likely leave a number of Salvadorans undocumented after almost two decades of legally working and living in the United States.
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen determined that circumstances resulting from the 2001 earthquakes 'no longer exist, ' senior White House administration officials said on a press call Monday about the program's termination.
El Salvadorans living in the United States were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 2001 after the country was hit by deadly earthquakes. It said the 18-month delay would give Congress time to develop a legislative change if it chooses, while also giving Salvadorans and their government time to prepare.
Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén phoned Nielsen on Friday and appealed her to extend TPS, according to the Washington Post. The Salvadorans were granted TPS after a pair of 2001 earthquakes slammed the country.
President Donald Trump's decision signals a departure from the stance of previous administrations, which granted and re-authorized temporary protected status for Hondurans beginning in the late 1990s.
The action also produces a serious challenge for El Salvador, a country of 6.2 million people whose economy counts on money sent by wage earners in the U.S. Over the past decade, growing numbers of Salvadorans - many coming as families or unaccompanied children - have entered the United States illegally through Mexico, fleeing violence and poverty.
Patrick Young, program director at the nonprofit Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead and Brentwood, said prior administrations had considered "the conditions of chaotic violence in El Salvador" when they extended TPS.
The administration will notify the Salvadorans they have until September 9, 2019 to leave the United States or find a new way to obtain legal residency, according to a copy of the announcement prepared by the Department of Homeland Security that will be published Monday morning...
"Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those now protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years", the announcement stated.
The benefit, which includes work authorization, can be renewed up to 18 months at a time by the Homeland Security secretary.
Last year, the Trump administration extended status for South Sudan and ended it for Sudan.
There is one area of agreement between the groups on the right like FAIR and NumbersUSA and advocates on the left who say ending temporary protected status for El Salvador would be an unnecessary and cruel move - Nielsen's decision will toss a political hot potato to Congress. Spagat reported from San Diego.