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What is TPS, and what will happen to the 200,000 Salvadorans whose status is revoked?

CASA de Maryland, an immigration advocacy and assistance organization, holds a rally Monday in Washington's Lafayette Square in reaction to the announcement regarding temporary protected status for people from El Salvador. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
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This week, the Trump administration announced it was ending protections for about 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the United States since at least 2001.  Here's what you need to know:

1. What is temporary protected status, and why do some Salvadorans have it?

TPS was established by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990. It’s a humanitarian program whose basic principle is that the United States should suspend deportations to countries that have been destabilized by war or catastrophe. Under current law, the secretary of homeland security can extend TPS protections as a result of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions,” according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Foreign nationals with TPS protections are generally able to obtain work authorization and a driver’s license, but the TPS designation is subject to U.S. government review and can only be extended for up to 18 months. Salvadorans are by far the largest group of TPS holders.

2. Why did the Obama administration extend it? Why wasn’t this done earlier?

Following a pair of 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador, TPS protections were extended to eligible Salvadorans who were present in the United States at that time. The Obama administration, like previous administrations, renewed the TPS designation every 18 months. Immigrant advocate groups, business leaders and lawmakers from districts with large numbers of immigrants pushed for the TPS extensions.

3. What will happen to the 200,000 Salvadorans whose status is revoked? What can they do now?

TPS protections for Salvadorans will expire on Sept. 9, 2019. After that time, their immigration status will revert to whatever it was before TPS was granted, so if the person was in the country illegally they would be eligible for deportation. The 200,000 Salvadorans have until then to obtain legal residency or leave the country.

Officials from DHS say that former TPS recipients will not be an “enforcement priority” for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but anyone in the country who lacks legal status can be taken into custody.

4. What is the current situation in El Salvador? What will Salvadorans be faced with if they are deported?

El Salvador has one of the world’s highest homicide rates, fueled by horrific gang violence, and it remains one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. Both of these problems continue to drive illegal immigration from El Salvador to the United States. But Homeland Security officials note that the decision to renew the TPS designation should be made on the basis of its initial justification — in this case the 2001 earthquakes. They note that the United States has deported 39,000 people to El Salvador over the past two years, an indication, they say, that the country is capable of absorbing returnees.

5. Why is ending TPS an important keystone for the Trump administration?

Virtually every facet of the U.S. immigration system has come under review by the Trump administration. The president and his key advisers aim to reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States by cutting legal immigration and escalating efforts to deport those who arrived unlawfully. They view TPS as an example of an immigration program that has deviated from its original intent, and they repeatedly point to the fact that TPS has “temporary” in its name. They say it was never meant to be a path to long-term residency in the United States.

Read more:

Salvadorans fear TPS decision will be a huge economic blow but pin hopes on Congress