TPS to Terminate on September 9, 2019 for people from El Salvador
What is TPS?
Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, was established by Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990 and signed into law by President George Bush. TPS provides temporary lawful status and work authorization to people, whether they entered legally or not, from being returned to their home country, if their country is designated by the US as a country affected by natural disaster, violence, disease, and/or death. A country’s TPS designation can last from six (6) months to eighteen (18) months. Sixty days prior to the end of a designation, the secretary reviews the conditions of the foreign country to determine if the unsafe conditions still exist. If conditions continue, The Homeland Security Secretary can renew the status for six (6), twelve (12), or eighteen (18) months. There is no limit on the number of times the secretary may extend TPS, so long as the conditions continue.
Under the law, the secretary of Homeland Security may designate country for TPS if it finds:
(A) there is an “ongoing armed conflict within the state” which presents a serious threat to returning nationals;
(B) there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the State which prevents the state from accepting its nationals, and the state has requested TPS designation; and or
(C) there exist extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state that prevent nationals from safely returning to their country.
If TPS is granted, the applicant receives protection from deportation and is authorized to legally work while they remain in the U.S. It is important to note, that by law TPS is not a pathway to gain lawful permanent resident status or citizenship.
TPS and El Salvador
El Salvador was one of the first countries designated for TPS under President George W. Bush because of its civil war. That designation expired in 1994. Then on January 13, 2001, two separate earthquakes struck El Salvador. According to the United States Office of Federal Register, the earthquakes killed over 1,000 people, caused approximately 8,000 injuries, and 1.5 million people were displaced. Since 2001, the country has remained unsafe for the return of its nationals.
In the most recent TPS extension, detailed in The Federal Registry July 8, 2016 Notice, the U.S. government determined that an 18-month extension was warranted because the conditions supporting El Salvador’s 2001 designation for TPS persist. It cited numerous dire conditions such as “subsequent natural disasters and environmental challenges, including hurricanes, tropical storms, and flooding, an ongoing coffee rust epidemic, and a prolonged regional drought that is impacting food security.” The Notice also detailed the lack of portable water and the increasing violence and insecurity affecting El Salvador. According to the Federal Registry, “murder, extortion, and robbery rates are high, and the government struggles to respond adequately to crime, including significant criminal gang activity.” It went on to state, the Salvadoran police suffer from insufficient staffing and corruption, and the judicial system as being “weak, with a low criminal conviction rate and high levels of corruption, creating an environment of impunity.” Meanwhile, about 18 months later, the new Trump administration argued the only criteria the government should consider is whether the original reason for the designation, which was damage from the earthquake, still exists. This position ignored and did not consider the rest of the dire conditions detailed in the Government’s 2016 decision to extend.
The decision to end TPS for Salvadorans came weeks after more than 45,000 Haitians lost their protection status granted in 2010. The administration is giving Salvadorans until September 2019 to organize and make arrangements, as after September 9, 2019, they will no longer have permission to stay in the country. This means nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country which they call home.
As an attorney working with a large immigrant population, since the announcement, many of my Salvadoran clients have sadly remarked, “we thought that if we worked hard, paid our taxes and stayed out of trouble we would be allowed to stay.” They are terrified about the reality of losing their jobs as they will no longer have permission to work legally. They are also worried about losing their medical insurance, especially those that are sick. The biggest concern, however, is of their US citizen children and how this will affect them. According to the Center for Migration Studies, Salvadoran beneficiaries have 192,700 American-born children.
Salvadorans will be required to re-register for TPS and apply for employment authorization until this termination becomes effective on September 9, 2019. Re-registration period for people who already have TPS will run from January 18, 2018 to March 19, 2018. If you currently have TPS from El Salvador, speak with an attorney to discuss your case and options. One potential option may include applying for a U Visa, which are designated to victims of crimes in the U.S. and who have cooperated with authorities’ investigation and prosecution. Parents of US Citizen children may want to consider custody and/or guardianship arrangements if they want their children to remain in the United States.
Individuals affected by the Termination of TPS for Salvadorans should seek legal advice and determine their options. To learn more about this post or any other matter, feel free to contact me, Jessica Ramirez at JRamirez@djdlawyers.com
From immigration matters and family law to criminal and municipal cases, Jessica brings a wealth of experience to her practice at D’Arcy Johnson Day. Her fluency in both English and Spanish enables her to help so many members of the community, as she focuses on accident and personal injury cases, work injuries, medical malpractice, criminal law, and municipal court proceedings among other areas of practice.