The US government is expected to rule on Monday that hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the country as “temporary” immigrants since 2001 must return to their country.
Last year the Trump administration decided to stop renewing Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for 59,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans residing in the United States for decades, and is expected to make the same decision for an estimated 200,000 Salvadorans covered under the same program.
While they could be given more than one year to return, the decision would uproot tens of thousands of families with deep roots in the United States, including tens of thousands of children born in the US who are therefore American citizens.
Monday is the deadline for the Department of Homeland Security to rule on extending TPS for the Salvadorans, large numbers of whom live in and around the US capital.
Previous governments rolled over TPS status with little debate, but President Donald Trump has pursued a tougher “law and order” approach to legal and illegal immigration.
“All signs at this time point to the supposition that Salvadoran TPS is likely to be terminated,” said Doris Meissner, a former US Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner and now Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.
“The real issue now is likely to be the amount of time allowed for the wind down,” she said last week.
“If it’s a long period of time — 18 months to two years — that may very well be a signal to the Congress that there is time to find a legislative fix” which would allow the Salvadorans to remain.
The Salvadorans were granted temporary resident status in early 2001 after two huge earthquakes rocked El Salvador, making it impractical for American authorities to force them to return home if they were arrested for being in the US illegally.
Rolling over TPS status allowed them to settle in further with legal protections.
According to the Center for Migration Studies, they represent more than 135,000 households, over a quarter of which own homes with a mortgage, and 88 percent of which are in the labor force.
Most have learned English, 10 percent are self-employed and about 10 percent have married US citizens.
About one-quarter of the Salvadorans under TPS live in California, and about one-fifth in Virginia and Maryland, most of them concentrated around the US capital Washington, according to the Center for Migration Studies.
Pressure to find a long-term solution could focus on the number of US-born children that will be affected by the ruling.
Ending TPS status “would mean breaking up families that are in the United States,” Salvador’s Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez said last week.