The Termination of Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador

By Chicas, Jasmin G. | Washington Report on the Hemisphere, February 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

The Termination of Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador


Chicas, Jasmin G., Washington Report on the Hemisphere


On January 8, 2018, the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced the end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador. The termination date will be delayed for 18 months to allow TPS beneficiaries, including the state of El Salvador, to prepare for their nationals to transition back to their country. This 18month delay gives TPS beneficiaries now residing in the U.S. until September 9, 2019 to make the necessary preparations for their ultimate return to their country of origin or find legal immigration status in order to remain in the United States. Most of them were forced to flee here as a result of the civil war in the 1980s.

El Salvador was granted TPS in March 2001 following the loss of homes and other buildings, as well as for the displacement of hundreds of thousands of other Salvadorans more that resulted from the two major earthquakes that struck the country that same year. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimated a total of US $1,255.4 million in damages. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), foreign countries and citizens traditionally can be granted TPS for the following three reasons: "ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, and other extraordinary and temporary conditions" that prevent nationals from a safe return to their home country. Further, TPS beneficiaries are allowed to legally work in the United States, travel out of the country with a right to return, and are protected from deportation.

According to Nielsen, the conditions that prompted the designation of TPS for El Salvador are no longer present due to the "significant amount" of foreign aid provided to El Salvador since the earthquake, close to 17 years ago. The DHS claims that El Salvador has used foreign aid to make repairs in areas like sanitation and infrastructure, as well as rebuilt schools, houses, and hospitals.

According to a slightly optimistic DHS, there is no longer a need to continue TPS for El Salvador because there is no longer a disruption in the reviving of acceptable living conditions in that country. The end of TPS is also being justified on the grounds that there is no longer a disruption of living conditions due to the initial environmental disaster, yet this justification disregards that Salvadorans who are now will be returning to their mother country are a country still dealing with high levels of economic uncertainty and violence. Though El Salvador ended its civil war in 1992, it has moved on to another period of armed conflict, this time between gangs like MS-13 and Calle 18, which have terrorized the entire country. It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 gang members in El Salvador who are involved in murder, rape, kidnappings, drug trafficking, and extortion. In 2015, the country's homicide rates were 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, and include 6,656 murders that year. The decision to end the Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador will lead some Salvadoran nationals to misguidedly return to a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the western hemisphere.

The Effects of Gang Violence

Gang violence is destroying the quality of life throughout the country. The conservative organization, Freedom House reported that in 2015 there was an estimated 289,000 internally displaced people in El Salvador, bringing a local government to create a settlement camp. The escalation of violence also led thousands of children to flee the country in 2015. Not only will the Trump administration be sending people back to a state of grave economic uncertainty, but they will also be leading them into a state of profound violence, from which many have tried to desperately flee.

The termination of TPS also has failed to give cognizance to the various challenges women will face upon returning to the country such as becoming targets for extortion, discrimination, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. In the first 8 months of 2015, there was an estimated 1,123 reported cases of sexual assault; this does not include cases that go unreported due to fear of reprisal. …

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