The Trump administration on Monday announced an end to humanitarian protections for more than 260,000 Salvadorans. Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, was granted for Salvadorans after a series of earthquakes in 2001.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the program, will terminate it for nationals from El Salvador in September 2019.
TPS offers temporary relief to people who are in the U.S. when conditions in their home countries prevent them from returning safely. Many people have been granted TPS status for years, however, and remain in the U.S. with no clear path to permanent immigration status.
There are approximately 436,900 people with protected status from 10 countries — South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria, Haiti, Nepal and Yemen. Protection status for beneficiaries from Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan has been terminated, too.
Here’s what you need to know about TPS:
How many Salvadorans could be impacted? What about the other countries?
El Salvador is the largest single group of TPS holders with about 262,500 beneficiaries, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which manages the program.
Salvadorans have until Sept. 9, 2019, to either adjust their immigration status, leave the U.S. or face potential deportation. The administration has repeatedly said no class of undocumented immigrants are exempt from arrest and deportation.
Critics of the administration’s decision said ending protective status for Salvadorans is an attempt to deport immigrants — and a policy that will devastate families.
Approximately 58,600 Haitians with protected status will lose their benefits on July 22, 2019.
Status for 5,300 Nicaraguan beneficiaries is set to terminate on Jan. 5, 2019. And just over 1,000 Sudanese TPS holders will no longer be eligible for benefits as of Nov. 2, 2018.
In November, then-Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke delayed a decision for 86,000 Hondurans — the second largest group of TPS holders — and determined the department needed more information. The delay triggered a six-month extension for Honduras with a new expiration date of July 5, 2018. DHS is required to provide a 60-day notice before terminating any designation.
Over time, the number of TPS holders generally go down as beneficiaries either return to their home countries, gain lawful permanent status or have a lapse in renewal.
Can TPS holders remain lawfully in the U.S. once their status ends?
It depends. TPS holders who initially entered the U.S lawfully can apply for a Green Card if they meet the other requirements. The steps to becoming a lawful permanent resident vary, but are normally taken by acquiring a visa through family or a job, according to USCIS.
If a TPS holder entered unlawfully, where you live matters.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth and Sixth Circuits have ruled that if an individual has been granted TPS status, he or she may be eligible to have their status adjusted; that is, if they meet other requirements, they could apply for permanent immigration status.
The Eleventh Circuit held, however, that TPS was not an admission for purposes of adjustment. Recipients living in the states of the Eleventh Circuit, therefore, are barred from adjusting if
they entered without inspection, according to the American Immigration Council.
According to the council, the vast majority of Salvadorans with temporary protected status arrived in the U.S. without legal authorization. Even if TPS is considered a qualification to adjust status, the beneficiary must be eligible to apply.
Of the approximately 262,500 Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries, more than 42,700 have been granted lawful permanent resident status, according to USCIS.
Are there other circumstances?
There are special circumstances under which TPS beneficiaries may remain in the U.S., such as special visas for victims of human trafficking, battered spouses, children or parents and victims of other crimes, as well as qualifying special immigrant juveniles and asylum seekers.
What if TPS holders don’t qualify for an adjustment of status?
DHS says only Congress can legislate a permanent solution to address the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status for beneficiaries who have lived and worked in the U.S. for many years.
In November, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), along with Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), introduced legislation that would allow qualified TPS recipients to apply for legal permanent residency.
“This decision is shameful, but sadly it’s not surprising,” said Van Hollen in a statement after Monday’s announcement.
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and others introduced legislation in the House in November to allow TPS-eligible individuals to apply for lawful permanent resident status and allow those who have been in the United States for more than five years to remain here legally through a newly-proposed “protected” status.
In August, El Salvador’s foreign affairs minister delivered a letter to DHS formally petitioning for an extension of TPS, stressing the contributions of Salvadorans benefiting from TPS to the U.S. and its economy.
Serena Marshall contributed to this story.