Today, the Trump Administration announced that it will not extend Temporary Protected Status for nationals of El Salvador. It is estimated that over 200,000 nationals of El Salvador will be impacted by this termination.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is meant to be temporary. When a country is suffering conditions that temporarily prevent those nationals from returning safely (i.e. in the wake of a natural disaster or conflict), USCIS may grant TPS to certain eligible nationals who are already here and present in the United States at the time of designation. TPS is not a path to citizenship or permanent residence, but it is a way to remain lawfully in the United States with authorization to work and be safe from removal. To qualify, individuals must show they are a national of the country in question and meet stringent eligibility requirements.
While the relief is meant to be temporary, TPS can last for lengthy periods of time. El Salvador was designated for TPS in 2001. As physical presence in the US at the time of designation is part of the requirements for eligibility, those impacted by this termination have now had lengthy, lawful residence in the United States. While TPS will be in place until September 9, 2019, in many cases that will not seem like enough time to pack up more than 15 years of life in America.
The termination of TPS for El Salvador comes on the heels of similar announcements that terminated the designation for nationals of Haiti and for Nicaragua. These terminations give rise to concern for the future of TPS for nationals of Honduras. Honduras has been designated for TPS since 1999.
Individuals and families who will be impacted by the termination of TPS are strongly advised to seek out reputable legal advice. TPS is meant to be a safe haven while seeking to prepare to return home or seeking a path to residence. Being in TPS can be one of the steps along the way to permanent residence through employment or through a family petition.
Over the past few years, we have seen judicial decisions supporting the position that a grant of TPS counts as an admission to the United States for the purposes of being eligible to adjust status here in the US. In other words, if a person originally entered without inspection, but later was granted TPS or later traveled on advance parole through TPS, she may now be eligible to become a permanent resident in the US through a family or employment petition. Alternatively, individuals in TPS may also have other relief available or other options for pursuing residence. As the process for residence through work can be lengthy (in many cases over a year), it is very important to get started on exploring options right away.
If you disagree with the actions of USCIS, we recommend that you reach out to your representatives—both at the national and state level—to express your opinion. Even though immigration is federal law, it impacts us at a local and state level. Those representatives in turn can lend their voice to the chorus at the federal level. Those who will be most impacted by these actions are people who are not temporary; rather they are strong and vibrant parts of our communities.