On Monday, January 8, 2018, the Trump Administration announced that it would not renew Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) for Salvadoran and other nationals. As a result, “more than 200,000” noncitizens from El Salvador will be forced to leave the United States. Tal Kopan, Trump Admin Ends Protections for 200,000 Salvadorans, CNN (Jan. 8, 2018). These noncitizens have until September 9, 2019, to get their affairs in order and leave the United States, a home many have known for seventeen years. Id. Although the program is titled “temporary,” TPS for Salvadoran nationals has been anything but. Salvadorans have been allowed to build a life in the United States since 2001, when an earthquake devastated their country. Miriam Jordan, Trump Administration Says That Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans Must Leave, N.Y. Times (Jan. 8, 2018). So why end TPS now?
What is TPS?
TPS is a status given to nationals at the discretion of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). National Immigration Forum, Fact Sheet: Temporary Protected Status. The decision to grant TPS to individuals of a particular country is political in nature because TPS is given to those “who are unable to return home safely due to conditions or circumstances preventing their country from adequately handling the return.” Id. It is up to DHS to decide what country does or does not meet those conditions. TPS is normally granted for conditions such as war, environmental disasters, and “other extraordinary and temporary conditions.” Id. Although individuals who are granted TPS are given permission to reside in the United States and authorized to work, it does not give these individuals a path to citizenship. Id.
Why end TPS?
Salvadorans were originally granted TPS because an earthquake desvestated El Salvador in 2001. Past administrations have periodically renewed TPS however, in accordance with the anti-immigration theme of the Trump Administration, DHS has chosen not to renew TPS. According to DHS officials, the reason the Administration has chosen to end TPS for Salvadorans is because the country has recovered from the earthquake. Kopan, Trump Admin Ends Protections for 200,000 Salvadorans. The Administration is claiming that El Salvador is perfectly safe to return to despite over seventeen years of renewing TPS and seventeen years of alleging that El Salvador was not a safe stable country. See id. The administration also cited that the threat of violence in El Salvador is irrelevant to the decision to end TPS. Id. Although the Administration claims that the violence in El Salvador is irrelevant, it must be stated that in 2016, El Salvador was named the murder capital of the world. Alan Gomez, El Salvador: World’s New Murder Capital, USA Today (Jan. 7, 2016, 10:57 AM). El Salvador is plagued by gang violence, government corruption, violence against women, and serious impunity. U.S. Department of State, El Salvador 2016 Human Rights Report. Essentially, El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. In ending TPS, this Administration is forcing 200,000 Salvadoran nationals to return to an extraordinarily unstable country.
As these 200,000 Salvadoran nationals face a harsh reality, many will be grasping for ways to remain in the country where they have built a life for the past seventeen years. Students and practitioners should expect a rise in the number of Salvadoran nationals seeking advice in finding their path to citizenship. With the track record of this Administration, it seems as if noncitizens will continue to be at the forefront of the news cycle. Students looking to work in immigration should be armed and ready to tackle anything that this Administration decides to do next.