200,000 Salvadorans Could Lose U.S. Residency and Face Deportation

In this file photo, Salvadoran immigrants wait May 15, 2017, at the main migration center in San Salvador after being deported from Mexico.
(photo for The Washington Post by Fred Ramos)

The Trump administration has until Monday to announce one of its most consequential immigration decisions — whether to extend a form of provisional residency known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for about 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the United States since at least 2001.

Both the Department of Homeland Security and the White House have signaled for months that they are determined to end the TPS protections as a matter of principle, potentially forcing the Salvadorans to leave or face deportation if they do not find another way to obtain legal residency.

A senior DHS official said Thursday that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has yet to make a determination but that the agency would have an announcement before Monday’s deadline.

“The secretary has received advice from DHS staff and the State Department and is continuing to meet interested groups prior to making a decision,” said the official, who was not authorized to discuss DHS deliberations.

“The law is clear on the standards for TPS and she intends to follow the law based on the facts,” the official said.

In November, DHS ended TPS for 60,000 Haitians who arrived after the 2010 earthquake, giving them an 18-month grace period. Nielsen is widely expected to do the same for the Salvadorans, though their sheer numbers — and the fact they have been in the United States for so long — makes the decision even more weighty.

Congress created TPS in 1990 to exempt foreigners from deportation if the executive branch determined that natural disasters or armed conflict made their countries too unstable or unsafe.

DHS officials say it is up to Congress to find a long-term solution. But experts say proposals to create a path for TPS recipients to obtain another form of long-term legal residency are likely to be subsumed into the rancorous debate over Trump’s decision to cancel Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Salvadorans are by far the largest group of TPS recipients. They were allowed to stay after a pair of 2001 earthquakes, and their provisional residency has been renewed on an 18-month basis since then.

The largest number of Salvadoran TPS recipients live in the Washington area, followed by Los Angeles, New York and Houston, estimates show.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti