On January 8, 2018, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador. TPS provides a temporary legal basis to remain in the U.S. and employment authorization to individuals from countries deemed to be unsafe due to natural disaster, civil war, and other conditions. El Salvador was originally designated for TPS after a series of earthquakes in 2001. Following a review of the current conditions of the country, DHS made the decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador. In order to allow for an orderly transition, the termination has been delayed for 18 months, and TPS for Salvadorans will end on September 9, 2019.
DHS found that the physical conditions that warranted TPS designation had improved as a result of successful reconstruction projects, including the repair and reconstruction of homes, schools, and hospitals. DHS noted that millions of dollars in emergency aid has been used to provide water and sanitation and to repair damaged roads. Based on the current conditions, DHS determined that the country no longer qualifies for TPS under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Salvadorans are by far the largest group of participants in the TPS program. According to data released in October by the Congressional Research Service, Salvadorans account for nearly two-thirds of re-registrants. DHS’s decision to end protected status is expected to impact over 250,000 people currently in the United States.
Some potential options for those Salvadorans facing TPS termination include:
- Permanent Residency – Some individuals may be able to obtain lawful permanent residency through their personal ties to a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse or sibling. Courts are currently split over whether individuals who entered without authorization (and later obtained TPS) are eligible to apply for an adjustment of status based on an immediate relative position. The majority opinion is that these individuals are not eligible to adjust status because receiving TPS is not an “admission” into the country.
- Asylum – Some individuals may be able to obtain asylum if they can establish a credible fear of harm should they be sent back to El Salvador.
- U Visa – Some individuals may be eligible for a U visa if they have been the victim of a crime in the U.S. and have cooperated with authorities in the incident’s investigation and prosecution.
However, it is likely that the vast majority of Salvadoran TPS holders will not be able to find a legal path to remain in the United States and will need to plan to return to their home country. Parents of U.S.-born children should begin the legal process of establishing guardians for their children if they wish for them to remain in the United States.
Individuals affected by the termination of TPS for Salvadorans are encouraged to seek legal advice to discuss their immigration status and determine their options.