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09 January 2018, 12:30 | Tara Lloyd
US president Donald Trump's has decided to end the Temporary Protected Status for Salvadoran immigrants in the US. REUTERS Andrew Kelly
However, her announcement prompted outrage similar to what greeted Trump's decision to end DACA, the Obama-era program for children of immigrants in the United States illegally.
"The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador was made after a review of the disaster-related conditions upon which the country's original designation was based and an assessment of whether those originating conditions continue to exist", Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Monday.
The Salvadorans become the latest group of foreigners to lose what's known as Temporary Protected Status after spending years in the United States because of natural disaster in their home countries.
Nielsen has the ultimate decision on whether to extend El Salvador's status, but advocates on the issue from both sides of the aisle anticipate a similar decision to that on Haiti, a struggling country as well, but one the department says has recovered from its devastating quake in 2010.
In November, Nielsen's predecessor, acting Secretary Elaine Duke, ended the protection for Haitians, requiring about 50,000 to leave or adjust their legal status by July 22, 2019, and for Nicaraguans, giving about 2,500 until January 5, 2019. An estimated 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants have the protection, according to a November report by the Congressional Research Service. The government also appealed to Salvadoran TPS recipients to "remain calm" and noted that their status will expire in September 2019.
But Ms. Nielsen said she was abiding by the letter of the law, which only allows TPS to be granted when the home country is not able to handle the return of its own people. Many TPS holders send money back to their home countries, boosting those economies, for example.
In September 2016, the Obama administration extended protections for 18 months, saying El Salvador suffered lingering harm from the 2001 earthquakes that killed more than 1,000 people and was temporarily unable to absorb such a large number of people.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, called on Congress to offer a permanent solution for current TPS holders and protect them from deportation.
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The protection program has been recently criticized by Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said in an October 30 letter to the Department of Homeland Security that immigrants living in the USA under TPS were taking "jobs that might otherwise be filled by one of the 7.1 million unemployed Americans".
Administration officials have said TPS is supposed to provide a temporary haven for victims, not a permanent status in the US.
There is one area of agreement between the groups on the right like FAIR and NumbersUSA and advocates on the left who say ending temporary protected status for El Salvador would be an unnecessary and cruel move - Nielsen's decision will toss a political hot potato to Congress.
The benefit, which includes work authorization, can be renewed up to 18 months at a time by the Homeland Security secretary.
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The pending deadline marks the first major immigration decision that will fall to Nielsen, who has thus far pledged to carry on the legacy of her predecessor and former boss, John Kelly, who is now White House chief of staff.
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