DHS Ends Protected Immigration Status for El Salvador

200,000 Salvadorans could lose US residency and face expulsion

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirms that it is ending special protections for Salvadoran immigrants, forcing almost 200,000 to leave the country or face deportation.

The Salvadorans, who were granted temporary permits to live and work in the USA after a series of deadly earthquakes, could be deported if they don't leave the U.S.by September 9, 2019, said two senior administration officials who spoke to reporters Monday on condition of anonymity.

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday that damage inflicted by a 2001 quake in the Central American country didn't justify another temporary extension.

DHS is preparing to announce that Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has decided the conditions in El Salvador have improved significantly since then, ending the original justification for the Salvadorans' deportation protection, these people said.

"There continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in El Salvador resulting from a series of earthquakes in 2001, and El Salvador remains unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return of its nationals", a July 8, 2016, notice in the Federal Register said.

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The Salvadoran Embassy in Washington estimates that 97% of Salvadorans on TPS over the age of 24 are employed and paying taxes, and more than half own their own homes. Losing them could cost the USA about $280 million in contributions to gross domestic product, according to an analysis by the Immigrant Resource Center, which promotes immigrant rights.

The decision is likely to please immigration hard-liners who argue the TPS program was never meant to provide long-term residency.

The administration has been phasing out temporary protected status granted by Republican and Democratic administrations to 437,000 people from 10 countries who have suffered from armed conflicts, earthquakes and other natural disasters, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The department also eliminated TPS status for 5,300 Nicaraguans that was first granted in 1999 following the destruction left by Hurricane Mitch.

The DHS stated, "Additionally, in recent years, the US government has been repatriating individuals back to El Salvador - more than 39,000 in the last two years -demonstrating that the temporary inability of El Salvador to adequately return their nationals after the quake has been addressed". They must leave by January 2019.

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