Published: Oct 31, 2019, Updated: Oct 31, 2019
The United States government has announced that it has extended the TPS permits for around 200,000 Salvadorean immigrants by a further year, allowing them to live and work in the US up to January 2021.
TPS ( Temporary Protected Status) was granted to people from El Salvador after the major earthquakes that devasted the country in 2001. This status was set to expire in January of next year.
While officials from El Salvador were grateful for the ” breathing room” this gave their citizens living in the US, there has been some confusion over whether the deal is actually an extension of their TPS or simply prolonging their work permits.
The TPS programme was launched in 1990 and grants immigrants from various countries the legal right to work and live in the United States, irrespective of whether they legally entered the US or not. TPS is granted only to countries impacted by environmental disasters such as earthquakes, wars and epidemics. To date, citizens of 10 countries have been given protections under TPS since it first became law during the presidency of George Bush senior.
Since January 2018, President Trump’s administration has taken a hard line on TPS, stating that migrants from the Central American country should either leave or seek citizenship. He argued that temporary should mean what it says, for a limited time only and that TPS should not be extended beyond the period when the original conditions under which it was granted no longer existed. TPS has previously been withdrawn from Haitians and Nicaraguans. This hardening of US immigration policy has caused much uncertainty and mental anguish amongst people residing in the US under TPS, of whom El Salvadoreans make up by far the largest proportion.
However, President Trump’s attempts to end TPS have met with considerable opposition and have so far been blocked by court rulings.
On Monday, Mr Ronald Johnson, the United States ambassador to El Salvador, announced that an agreement had been signed extending TPS for people from El Salvador residing in the United States for a period of a year. However, Ken Cucinelli, the acting director of USCIS, (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) appeared to be contradicting the US ambassador’s statement.
In a Tweet, he seemed to be stating that the extension was only referring to work permits. On the other hand, the US DHS (Department of Homeland Security) stated on its website that the validity of work permits for El Savadoreans was being extended to 4 January 2021. Furthermore, El Salvadoreans will be provided with a further 365 days following the conclusion of lawsuits related to TPS before repatriation to their country of origin.
The El Salvadorean Foreign Ministry sees the distinction as a technicality. The administration understands that the key point about this change in United States immigration law is that its citizens residing in the United States will be allowed to remain until January of 2022.
The new TPS agreement also features plans for USCIS officials to be sent to El Salvador in order to train customs and border officers there. The two countries also agreed to increase the sharing and collection of biometric information.
The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, made a joint video appearance with the US Ambassador. Speaking in Spanish, he stated that he was delighted and that the extension creates an additional period for legislators to find long term solutions for El Salvadroeans residing in the United States. Mr Johnson said that the agreement recognised the good work and achievements of President Bukele.
In the opinion of Ken Cucinelli of USCIS, the new agreement is a significant advance in addressing the concerns regarding aliens entering the United States at the border with Mexico. However, aid agencies point to the extremely high levels of gang-related violence and homicides in El Salvador and question the ability of the country to cope with large numbers of returning migrants. US immigration rights groups also demanded clearer answers regarding the exact date when the 365-day extension would begin.