TPS holders from El Salvador protected until January 2021

Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") has allowed 195,000 Salvadorans, who lacked legal immigration status in the United States in February 2001, to remain in the US for more than 18 years.   The program required formal extensions by the US government every 18 months, and every Salvadoran government in that time period celebrated each extension as a sign of its good working relationship with the US.

When Donald Trump came into office, his administration soon announced that the program would not be continued, a decision which was promptly challenged in the courts by the ACLU and others.   The government of Bukele , in connection with negotiating other migration-related documents which the Trump team wanted, has now procured a promise that Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries would have some extra grace period to remain in the country after the conclusion of any lawsuits if the courts allowed Trump to terminate TPS.           

Not surprisingly, Bukele announced this new promise with a tweet containing a joint video message from US Ambassador Ronald Johnson and Bukele.

They said it was impossible. That the Salvadoran Government could not do anything. But we knew that our allies would not leave us alone. We didn't want to share it before because we could hinder the conversations. But after everything, thank God, TPS was achieved.
A few comments to cut through the "spin" around this agreement:

1.    TPS will not end as long as the preliminary injunction in Ramos v. Nielsen is in effect.   Ramos is a lawsuit in federal court alleging the termination of TPS by the Trump administration for more than 300,000 people living in the U.S. from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan  was unlawful. The suit also seeks to protect the tens of thousands of U.S. citizen children whose parents would be forced to leave under the administration's policy.  The preliminary injunction could end tomorrow, or in many months.   That case is currently awaiting a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which will affirm or overturn the injunction.

2.   The extension announced by Bukele is not an extension of TPS, but an extension of the "transition period" during which people can voluntarily leave the country after the end of TPS and before the government will move to deport them. The transition period includes the date set for expiration of employment authorization documents (EADs) for TPS beneficiaries. 

3.   The current transition period under federal regulation is 120 days after the injunction terminates or January 2, 2020, whichever is later, for the affected countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan.
4.   The agreement reached by the US government with Bukele and El Salvador extends the transition period for Salvadorans until a minimum of January 4, 2021.  Technically, TPS itself is not being extended any longer than the injunction requires, but the transition period is being lengthened. In addition, the US government agreed that the minimum transition period for TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador will be one year after the conclusion of the existing lawsuits.

5.   No one can say exactly how much extension Bukele's government achieved for TPS beneficiaries compared to what has already been in place for all four countries subject to the Ramos injunction.  The US government had said that, if the injunction is still in place on December 2, 2019, it would extend the minimum transition period for all four countries to October 2, 2020.    In that case, Bukele may have only achieved an extra three months of grace period for El Salvador.

In return for this extension of an undetermined number of months, El Salvador entered into various agreements the US wanted including a "Border Security Arrangement" which the parties joint statement describes:
[T]he U.S. will deploy officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to advise and mentor their El Salvadoran national police, border security, immigration, and customs counterparts to further enhance their current operation model and share best practices to support criminal investigations, countering human trafficking and drug trafficking.
Also signed was a Biometric Data Sharing Program Arrangement, in addition to the Asylum Cooperation agreement previously signed between the countries.

What Bukele and Foreign Minister Hill did not achieve is any permanent resolution for the 195,000 Salvadorans with TPS and their estimated 200,000 US citizen children.   Advocates have been pushing for converting TPS status into permanent residency with green cards and a path to citizenship.   They seek a resolution which will eliminate the fear of TPS beneficiaries that any day, US politics or foreign policy concerns can uproot them from their home for the last 18 or more years.  Most, if not all, of the US Democratic candidates for president support residency for TPS holders.  But even a president from the Democratic party would need to persuade a Congress which has been unable to pass immigration measures for as long as Salvadorans have been protected by TPS.



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