Salvadoran TPS recipients lose fight

The US Department of Homeland Security will announce later today that it is cancelling the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of approximately 195,000 Salvadorans living in the US.

According to the Washington Post:
The administration will notify the Salvadorans they have until Sept. 9, 2019 to leave the United States or find a new way to obtain legal residency, according to a copy of the announcement prepared by the Department of Homeland Security that will be published Monday morning. 
The Salvadorans were granted what is known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, after a series of earthquakes devastated the country in 2001. 
DHS is preparing to announce that Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has decided the conditions in El Salvador have improved significantly since then, ending the original justification for the Salvadorans’ deportation protection, these people said.
TPS is a humanitarian provision in US immigration law, which temporarily suspends deportations of persons to their home country after their home country suffers some type of disaster. The rationale is that the US should not deport people back to a country already stretched to the limits by an earthquake or a hurricane or similar catastrophe.

TPS has existed for undocumented Salvadorans in the US following the 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador. Salvadoran nationals have been eligible for this status if they have been continually in the US since February 13, 2001, have committed no crimes and have registered during each subsequent 18 month period. Persons registered under TPS are not subject to being deported back to El Salvador, even if their original arrival in the US was illegal. TPS includes work authorization from the federal government allowing TPS enrollees to be legally employed.

There are approximately 195,000 Salvadorans in the US on TPS. TPS has been extended every 18 months since 2001 until now. Since TPS only applies to Salvadorans in the US as of February 12, 2001, each person on TPS has lawfully lived in the US for almost 17 years or longer.

One issue is how mixed status families will deal with the loss of TPS.   The 195,000 Salvadorans with TPS have approximately the same number of US citizen children who were born in the US after 2001.  The Trump administration has shown itself more than willing to break up families and deport parents without regard to status of children.   This leaves parents with the agonizing choice of leaving their children in the US, or bringing their US citizen children with them to an uncertain future in El Salvador.

So what does the end of TPS mean? For each person who enjoyed that protection, they revert to their status in 2001 at the time of the earthquakes. For someone who was undocumented and unknown to the US government, they return to being undocumented but now they are known to the government. The government would need to commence removal proceedings against that person, a process which can take years in immigration court. For someone who had a final order of removal already entered, that order will be effective again and they could be immediately picked up and placed on a plane to El Salvador. For someone who was in the midst of deportation proceedings, their case presumably resumes where it left off, if the government wants to pursue it.

One immediate impact of the decision will be the loss of work authorization for TPS holders on the effective date of the cancellation.   This will push these migrants, who had been working openly and paying taxes and social security, back into the shadow informal economy.    Their US citizen children will suffer.   Their families receiving remittances in El Salvador will suffer.    The federal and state governments will lose tax revenue.

People with lawyers will find ways to challenge and delay removal. People without lawyers will find a system which cares little for the fact that they have lived as law abiding residents of the US for 16 or more years.

Thus we will not suddenly see 195,000 Salvadorans arrive at Oscar Arunlfo Romero International Airport one day. Instead, one can anticipate a steadily growing volume of deportations over several years, as the Trump administration adds TPS recipients to the queue, along with asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, refugees and others.


Dave Kinnear said…
Clearly, we need to push our members of Congress to enact a permanent fix for Salvadoran TPS recipients. There is an election between now and the deadline, so there is an opportunity to hold politicians accountable for any mass deportations. The economic impact of removing so many productive workers from the U.S. economy, in cities such as Houston and Los Angeles, might motivate action from members of the House and Senate who are not moved by the humanitarian impact of this move.