Some 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. for at least 17 years face deportation after their special residency status was revoked on Monday.
The U.S. Government, on Monday, said it was cancelling the Salvadorans’ temporary protection status that allowed them to live in the U.S. after devastating earthquakes in 2001 in their native country.
Their protected status was renewed several times in following years.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security(DHS) Secretary, Kirtjen Nielsen, said in a statement on Monday that she had concluded that conditions in El Salvador had improved “so, the ongoing protection status is no longer justified.”
The Salvadorans have until September 2019 to leave the U.S. or find other legal means of remaining in the country.
In the statement, the department cited the repatriation of more than 39,000 people to El Salvador in the last two years as proof that the country’s “temporary inability” to bring back citizens no longer applies.
“Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years,” said the DHS.
The move came in the wake of the termination of similar TPS protections for 59,000 longtime resident Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans late last year, after having been allowed to set deep roots inside the United States for decades.
DHS said Nielsen made the decision after a review determined “that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist” and so extending the 17-year-old TPS cannot be justified.
But the decision also comes as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration by President Donald Trump.
Many if not most of those in the TPS programs had originally entered the country illegally or overstayed visas, but TPS had effectively allowed them to settle down without the constant fear of deportation.
Previous governments rolled over TPS status with little debate, but Trump has pursued a tougher “law and order” approach to the issue.
Without a change in the law, the move will force some 195,000 Salvadorans to leave the country by September 9, 2019.
It impacts large communities of deeply-rooted people in California, Texas and around the US capital, more than 135,000 households, according to the Center for Migration Studies.