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What the loss of temporary protected status will mean for Salvadorans in the U.S.

The Trump administration announced Monday that it will end the temporary protected status of more than 260,000 Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States by September 2019. Vox reporter Dara Lind tells Lisa Desjardins to learn what this means for Salvadorans and what choices they face now.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump has made another consequential decision regarding immigrants in this country. The administration announced that it is ending a program that gave temporary status to hundreds of thousands of people from El Salvador.

    As Lisa Desjardins explains, their protected status will end by September 2019.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The U.S. gave Salvadorans this status to help after devastating earthquakes hit in 2001. They are the latest group to face possible deportation in the future. The Trump administration has so far announced it would also end this temporary status for migrants from Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti.

    In total, that would affect nearly 400,000 people in the U.S. The largest group is over 250,000 from El Salvador.

    For more, I'm joined by Dara Lind, who covers immigration for Vox. Thanks for joining us.

  • Dara Lind:

    Thanks for having me, Lisa.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's just start with what the Trump administration says they're doing. Why are they doing this now?

  • Dara Lind:

    So, the administration has taken the attitude that, as long as the initial disaster for which they gave TPS to somebody — so, in this case, the earthquake in El Salvador in 2001 — as long as the country has recovered sufficiently from that, they don't see any reason to continue granting protections for people to be able to stay and work in the U.S.

    So, they have analyzed the economy of El Salvador, have decided that it has recovered from the 2001 earthquake, and not paid attention to the considerations that previous administrations had of how long people have been in the U.S., the fact that at this point they have put down roots, that many of them now have U.S. citizen children, that had previously prevented other presidents from stripping legal status from people.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So, you said TPS, temporary protected status.

    It's interesting they are removing this status now for El Salvadorans. It's a country that the State Department under President Trump last year warned Americans not to travel to, citing one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

    How does the administration square those two things, telling Americans, don't go there, but saying this one group of people need to return there?

  • Dara Lind:

    It's interesting that they didn't, really.

    On today's press call, senior administration officials were asked about in particular MS-13, which has been a major rhetorical target of this administration and which really has its home base in El Salvador.

    And they made it clear that they didn't see the danger as being sufficient to prevent people from going back. Of course, the irony is that they're also bragging about deporting MS-13 gang members back to El Salvador. And on today's press call, they said that the repatriation of deportees back to El Salvador is evidence that the country is doing well.

    So, they're kind of engaging in this double standard, but they're not trying to square that circle.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It looks like they're looking at the letter of the law. They're saying this is a temporary status, and we're saying the time is up now.

    But you implied how is that different from what other presidents have done? Other presidents have not seen it as temporary, even though it's called temporary?

  • Dara Lind:

    So, the reason that temporary protected status has been such a problem for previous administrations is there isn't a way to get a green card or get permanent residency in the U.S. from having temporary status.

    So the choice has been, do you strip legal status from people who have been working in the U.S. for years, or do you continue to punt the ball down the road, arguing that recovery is taking a while or other things have changed?

    Previous administrations have taken the second option. The Trump administration is taking the first option, as you said, taking this very letter-of-the-law approach, without making any considerations for, say, the almost 200,000 U.S.-born children, for the kind of communities that have grown up.

    This is 16 percent of all El Salvadorans in the U.S. that they are now saying, well, the initial reason for us giving you status has ended, so we're taking that away.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's talk about what happens to them now. What exactly are their options? I know their advocates say they have children here. Many of them have mortgages here. What are their options at this point?

  • Dara Lind:

    So, the administration gave 18 months more that they can apply for one last work permit to figure out what their options are.

    At that point, if they have spouses who are legal residents or U.S. citizens or if they children who are above the age of 21, they have people who will be able to petition for them to get green cards. Other than that, it's going to be a question of whether they can find some other way to potentially get status into the U.S.


  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But that's the minority, probably, right?

  • Dara Lind:

    It's very difficult for somebody to go from being unauthorized — or to go from not having an obvious pathway to being able to stay in the U.S.

    And so the choice facing most of them is really whether they go into the shadows and become unauthorized immigrants, or whether they go back to El Salvador. It's not like they are forced to go back. The Trump administration probably is not going to deport all 200,000 people — or 250,000 people, rather, the day after their work permits expire.

    But the choice of going and becoming an unauthorized immigrant certainly doesn't come without its risks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And one last question, quickly. How are the countries involved reacting to this? Is this changing how they see the U.S., or no?

  • Dara Lind:

    The relationship between the Trump administration and a lot of Latin American countries has been a little bit fraught, not least because of the way that the administration describes the MS-13 gang problem and appears to be implicating the Salvadoran government in not doing enough to help with it.

    But the administration hasn't really had its immigration policy guided by that, right? It's considered the America-first ideology to be the center of it. And it's kind of managed its relationships with other countries around that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Dara Lind of Vox, thank you for joining us.

  • Dara Lind:

    Thank you.

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