The Trump administration faces a deadline Monday to decide whether to renew a program granting temporary immigration status to over 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador.
The Department of Homeland Security is expected to end the relief program, which granted temporary immigration status to people who came to the United States after earthquakes devastated El Salvador in 2001. The administration already ended similar relief programs for immigrants from Haiti and Nicaragua.
“We have thousands of residents from El Salvador who have lived here legally for years – residents who contribute to our economy, attend our schools and universities, and help us build safer, stronger neighborhoods,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in a letter to Trump advocating for the renewal of the program, which affects 30,000 immigrants in D.C. “Ending TPS for El Salvador will have devastating impacts by tearing families apart.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Jimmy Panetta of D.C. took to Twitter to talk about a press conference he held on Friday to urge Trump to #SaveTPS, saying without the 200,000 refugees to whom it grants legal status, the U.S. would lose billions from its GDP.
Many of the Salvadorans affected by the decision have been in the United States since 2001 or earlier. The 2001 earthquakes killed more than 1,000 people, and El Salvador continues to struggle with lingering effects.
The Obama administration renewed Salvadorans’ protected status in September 2016, but the program can only be renewed in 18-month increments.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said she objects to short-term extensions.
“Getting them to a permanent solution is a much better plan than having them live six months, to 12 months to 18 months,” she told the Associated Press.
The Trump administration in 2017 ended the protected status for 60,000 Haitian immigrants who came to the United States after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and 2,500 Nicaraguan immigrants given protection after a 1998 hurricane. The decision on Salvadorans’ status affects the largest group of TPS-holders so far.
The deadline arrives while the White House is negotiating with Congress over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“This is my family. they are part of the 200,000+ Salvadorans who will be affected by the decision to end TPS, if it’s executed,” one Twitter user said. “Without my family, I don’t know how me and my siblings and cousins would survive.”