Salvadorans With Temporary Protected Status Given One-Year Relief, But Advocates Say It’s Not Enough

More than 250,000 Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the US have feared being ripped from their families as the Trump administration pushes to end their protections. Now, those TPS recipients can rest easy for another year following a new agreement between El Salvador and the US.

President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador announced on Monday, October 28 that the US government agreed to extend TPS, which provides work permits and security from deportation, for one year for its citizens living in the States. The two governments also agreed to other provisions, that will allow the Trump administration to continue its anti-immigrant agenda.

“They said it was impossible. That the Salvadoran government could do nothing. But we knew that our allies would not abandon us,” Bukele tweeted. “After everything, thank God, TPS was reached!”

It is unclear if affected TPS beneficiaries will have to renew their work permits prior to their expiration in January or if the protection will be automatically extended, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The Bush administration first offered TPS status to Salvadorans in 2001 after a number of disastrous earthquakes in the Central American country. According to Vox, there are an estimated 265,000 Salvadorans with TPS status in the US. Shortly after President Donald Trump took office, he attempted to end TPS status for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Honduras and Nepal. To end these protections, the Trump administration claimed that the conditions in the countries were now suitable to return to.

But El Salvador is hardly a safe country to return to. The small Central American nation has the highest homicide rate in Latin America, according to Overseas Security Advisory Council, an organization within the US federal government. The country is also not prepared to being accepting asylum seekers, Vox reported.

The Trump administration has also made concrete steps to curb any immigration that involved people of color. When presented the idea to restore protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries by lawmakers in January 2018, the president reportedly responded with: “Why are we having all these people from s--thole countries come here?” His administration has also moved to end protection for immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In March 2018, TPS recipients from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan and their US citizen children filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the status terminations were illegal and were put in place to further the administration’s anti-immigrant, racist agenda. Ramos v. Nielsen also argued that the Trump administration failed to follow the Administrative Procedure Act.

In October of that year, a federal judge ordered a temporary stop to the government’s actions, USA Today reported. This February, the Department of Homeland Security filed a notice indicating that TPS status for recipients from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan will be automatically extended to January 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated.

Federal officials noted that the latest agreement with the government of El Salvador will extend work permits through January 2, 2021.

“Today’s agreements will significantly help the US and our partners in El Salvador confront illegal migration and will strengthen the entire region as we approach the implementation of asylum cooperative agreements,” Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.

The new pact also allows the Trump administration to return Salvadoran migrants seeking asylum or other protections back to El Salvador, Vox noted. Similar agreements were made with Guatemala and Honduras. USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli noted in a series of tweets that the agreement would not extend TPS but allow work permits for Salvadorans living in the US to be “extended for one year past resolution of litigation for an orderly wind down period.”

El Salvador Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill said that Salvadorans protected by TPS are “admirable people, who have worked for 20 years to build a future of well-being. Now, thanks to President Bukele, we can tell nearly 250,000 fellow citizens and their families that with the support of the United States they can continue to fight for their dreams. They are not alone. We will continue to work 24/7 for a permanent solution.”

But advocacy groups say that the agreement falls short. The National TPS Alliance, a group of TPS beneficiaries from across the country, said that the one-year extension is hardly a permanent solution for the 400,000 families facing threats of deportation.

“We need public officials—on all sides— to step up for TPS families and make clear that separating families is not an option,” the organization said in a statement. “We need permanent residency. The Ramos v Nielsen litigation has been a lifeline for TPS holders who are in a state of political limbo and fighting for a permanent solution.”

The National TPS Alliance did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act in June. The bill would make TPS beneficiaries who have lived in the US for more than three years eligible to apply for permanent residency and then US citizenship. However, it is unlikely that the bill will be put to a vote under the Republican-controlled Senate, Vox reported.

“TPS holder’s lives are not bargaining chips and we know that only Congress can ensure a permanent solution. While we will continue to fight for TPS, we must make clear that our struggle is for a permanent solution and we call on Congressional and Senate leaders to join us to ensure that this happens,” the National TPS Alliance added in its statement.

Now, TPS holders will have to wait to learn whether they will have to reapply for the protected status or if the government will automatically renew it. The Ninth Circuit could also issue its ruling on Ramos v. Nielsen any day now. Whatever the decision, it is likely to lead to a battle over TPS at the Supreme Court.

What can be done about this

For those who need more information about their TPS status, whether they are from El Salvador or another affected country: the National TPS Alliance has a number of resources found on the Ramos v. Nielsen case here and the ACLU can be reached here. Information from USCIS on TPS, including any updates from the federal government, can be found here.

Do you have a Republican senator? You can contact them to push the GOP Senate leadership to put the Dream and Promise Act to a vote. You can find all Republican senators listed here.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.