On January 8, 2018, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced the termination of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador, to take effect after an 18-month delay on September 9, 2019. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 Salvadorans have status under TPS in the U.S. today.
A country may be designated with TPS due ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war), an environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane) or an epidemic, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. On March 9, 2001, El Salvador was designated for TPS by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, due to earthquakes causing a severe humanitarian crisis. Under TPS, Salvadorans could obtain temporary lawful status and work authorization in the United States. After having established a normal life in the United States for the past 17 years, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans protected under TPS are now facing tough decisions, which will have implications for U.S. employers as well.
The Secretary advised that the 18-month delay was to provide time for an orderly transition and time for individuals with TPS to arrange departure to El Salvador or seek alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible. Secretary Nielsen asserted that the “disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist,” because reconstruction projects of hospitals, roads, and schools are complete. Further, she stated that it is the duty of Congress to develop a solution for the absence of a lawful immigration status to those who are currently registered under TPS. These comments are highly controversial.
Over the past 17 years, TPS for Salvadorans had been renewed several times by administrations of both political parties. Most recently, DHS renewed the designation listing other considerations in addition to the earthquake, such as drought, food insecurity, poverty, and gang violence in El Salvador.
USCIS will no longer accept TPS re-registration information for citizens of El Salvador. Holders of TPS must look for an alternative lawful immigration status, if he or she wishes to remain in the U.S. TPS does not lead to lawful permanent residency; however, other nonimmigrant or immigrant statuses may be available, based on eligibility. Employers of TPS holders will also be affected as protected Salvadorans lose lawful work authorization, causing a loss in high numbers of the workforce.
This announcement follows several similar moves by the Trump Administration, which recently terminated TPS for citizens of Haiti and Nicaragua and rescinded the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program. Although a federal court recently ordered the Department of Homeland Security to resume DACA renewals, those with TPS face an uncertain future.
Green and Spiegel continues to monitor the response to this decision carefully. If you hold TPS status or are an employer with TPS staff members and have questions, please contact us immediately.