On Monday, October 28th, the Trump administration granted a one year extension to TPS (Temporary Protected Status) to Salvadorans living in the US. The program has been at risk of termination since Trump became president, as he sought to reduce immigration by cancelling TPS status for citizens of Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. The executive move to end TPS for citizens of these countries was enjoined by a US District Court in California in October 2018.
Those involved in the El Salvador decision this month announced that “the two countries have signed a number of documents to implement greater collaboration on information sharing, border and aviation security, and international diplomacy” in exchange for giving TPS recipients more time to repatriate to their home country.
El Salvador first became a TPS-eligible country on March 9, 2001. TPS (Temporary Protected Status) is a program that provides temporary legal status and work authorization to foreigners in need of humanitarian relief due to natural disasters or civil unrest. The intention is for TPS recipients to eventually return to their country when the situation is no longer emergent, but this is not always a safe or realistic option.
Ending TPS for Salvadorans would have required approximately 200,000 people living in the US to return to El Salvador. Citizens of El Salvador make up the single largest group of people under TPS status in the US. Following the agreement between the US and El Salvador, those here with TPS status are now protected from removal through January 2021, in order to allow more time to work out a plan for repatriating such a large group of people without creating additional issues. Experts have noted that “a sudden inflow of 250,000 individuals [returning] to El Salvador could spark another mass migration to the U.S. and reinvigorate the crisis at the southern border.”
A report in the LA Times notes the irony of the US continuing to honor El Salvador’s TPS eligibility, while at the same time insisting that it is a safe country for asylum-seekers. The US previously made a deal with El Salvador requesting that they accept Central Americans seeking asylum who pass through their country before reaching the US.
While Salvadorans with TPS in the US are temporarily safe, Congress is currently debating how to manage the growing crisis further south, in Venezuela. In January, a bill was introduced to Congress which would grant TPS status to citizens of Venezuela fleeing the extreme economic and political crisis there. The Venezuela TPS Act of 2019 has passed through the Democratic-majority House and is now with the Republican-controlled Senate for further review, as of July 2019.
The Miami Herald reports that the Trump administration claims to also be working toward admitting Venezuelan refugees, but so far nothing has materialized. According to the journalist on this report, “If the situation doesn’t change, we may be talking about 5 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees by December this year […] There are reliable estimates that the number may reach 6 million by the first quarter of 2020, and 8 million by the end of 2020.”
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