The Trump administration ended the Temporary Protection Status of about 200,000 Salvadorans on Monday, according to a Washington Post report citing a Department of Homeland Security announcement sent to lawmakers.
Salvadorans will have until Sept. 9, 2019—roughly 600 days—to set their affairs in order and leave the United States. The government is expected to send announcements to those affected.
Salvadorans are the largest group of illegal aliens to receive a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) via a humanitarian program started by George Bush in 1990, The New York Times reported. The second largest group was made up of 45,000 Haitians before they lost their temporary status in November last year.
The TPS program grants a temporary legal status and work authorization to illegal aliens in the United States who are from countries affected by natural disasters, conflict, or other extreme adversity. Salvadorans received their TPS status in 2001 after a series of earthquakes killed 1,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.
While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to reform immigration, especially by reining in illegal immigration. The decision to end TPS for Salvadorans is the latest in a series meant to deliver on that promise. It also connects with Trump’s promise to eradicate the brutal MS-13 gang.
El Salvador became MS-13’s new home when federal authorities deported thousands of gang members back to the country over the course of a more than a decade starting in the 1990s.
The United States’ porous border and immigration enforcement policies allowed MS-13 members to return to the United States after establishing cells in El Salvador. Today, an estimated 10,000 MS-13 gang members are believed to be the United States.
The Trump administration has faced a series of deadlines over the past year to decide whether to end the protected status of immigrants in the United States whose home countries have been affected by disasters. Critics and administration officials have said TPS is supposed to provide a temporary haven for victims, not a permanent status in the United States.
“We need to put the ‘T’ back into TPS,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told New York Times. “It has to be temporary. This has gone on far too long.”
Taken together, the decisions by the Trump administration mean approximately 250,000 people who previously had permission to live and work in the United States will, over the course of the next two years, lose those protections and be open to deportation if they choose to stay in the country.
Haitians and Nicaraguans will lose their protected status in 2019 and Hondurans could lose theirs later this year. South Sudanese immigrants’ protected status was extended until May 2019.
Salvadorans are the largest group by far with temporary protected status. An estimated 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants have the protection, according to a November report by the Congressional Research Service. That is more than three times the number of people in the next largest group with the status, Hondurans.
Critics have complained the TPS program allows participants to repeatedly extend their stays in 6-month to 18-month increments in case of a natural disaster, civil strife or other emergencies in their homelands.
Reuters contributed to this report.