WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security will announce Monday that it plans to end temporary protected status for 200,000 Salvadorans currently living in the United States, according to senior administration officials.
The Salvadorans will have until September 2019 to seek permanent residency in the United States or risk deportation.
The months before then "will provide time with individuals with TPS [temporary protected status] to arrange for their departure, or if eligible, to do the necessary paperwork to remain in the United States," a senior administration official told reporters on a call previewing the announcement.
Soon after The Washington Post first reported the news, a small group rallied outside the White House, chanting, "Donald Trump, shame on you" and "Congress, fix it now."
Jaime Contreras, vice president of the 32BJ Service Employees International Union and a Salvadoran immigrant who came to the United States in 1988, called the decision "shameful and inhumane."
"We have 18 months past March to pressure Congress and tell them it's time once and for all to give TPS holders once and for all a path to citizenship," Contreras said. "These are people who have been living by the rules ... getting background checks every 18 months, getting their fingerprints for more than 20 years."
The move by the Trump administration had been expected after the same status was ended for immigrants from Nicaragua and Haiti in 2017. The Salvadorans were given protection after a series of earthquakes hit the country in 2001. They are the largest population to have TPS currently living in the United States.
Immigration advocates have argued that the conditions in El Salvador are still too violent and impoverished for those on temporary protected status to return.
A senior administration official said the Trump administration did not consider the gang-perpetrated violence in El Salvador when deciding to end the protected status, only that the country has recovered from the 2001 earthquakes.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said the termination of TPS would force tens of thousands "into the shadows to avoid Trump's deportation force" if Congress doesn't take action.
Roy Beck of NumbersUSA, which advocates lower immigration levels, applauded the move.
"By ending the Salvadoran TPS, Sec. Nielsen has taken a major step toward saving the TPS program so it can be used for future emergencies," he said in a statement.
"The past practice of allowing foreign nationals to remain in the United States long after an initial emergency in their home countries has ended has undermined the integrity of the program and essentially made the 'temporary' protected status a front operation for backdoor permanent immigration."