Community Politics

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it is ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 200,000 native Salvadorans living in the U.S.

TPS, a humanitarian action granted in 2001, allowed Salvadorans to remain in the United States on a temporary basis after a series of deadly earthquakes hit their country. Those granted TPS re-apply and pay a fee every 18 months to maintain the status. Documented and undocumented residents are eligible.

There are some 2,000 Salvadorans in Kentucky — it’s not clear how many have Temporary Protective Status.

“There’s one group of people saying that, well if it’s temporary protected status why have people been here for 17 years,” said Guion Johnstone, an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law.  

“And then there are immigration advocates on the other side saying well some people had children here, they’ve developed lives here over the course of 17 years. Them having to leave so suddenly is going to be devastating.”

To qualify for TPS, immigrants cannot have any records of felonies. The designation allows people from countries that experience disaster, war or other extreme situations to live and work in the U.S. without risk of deportation. 

In a statement announcing revocation of TPS for Salvadorans, the Department of Homeland Security said, “Based on careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”

Other countries designated with TPS include Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

TPS for Salvadorans will end in September 2019. The Trump administration has also moved to end Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, Nicaraguans and Sudanese.

Nathalie Dietrich, accredited representative at Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, a nonprofit law and advocacy center in Lexington, said revoking protections doesn’t just affect Salvadorans.

“I can think of one client where one spouse has TPS El Salvador and the other one has TPS Honduras,” she said. “It’s going to affect them as one can stay and the other one can not stay any longer. It tears families apart and communities apart.”

Dietrich said Salvadorans under the TPS designation who wish to stay in the U.S. will have to look to other options.

“The only thing you can do is see if you qualify for anything else,” she said. “Usually if they still have TPS it’s because they don’t qualify for anything else to begin with.”

Temporary protected status does not lead to permanent residency or citizenship.

The White House last year rescinded another program that offered protections for immigrants — DACA, or Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals. As of September 4, 2017, there were approximately 2,800 active DACA recipients in Kentucky.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.