U.S. Decision Could Mean Protected Salvadorans Would Be Deported

Jan 8, 2018
Originally published on January 8, 2018 7:39 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

About 200,000 residents of the United States - enough people to form a decent-sized city - learned just this hour they will no longer be allowed to stay here legally. They are Salvadorans living in the United States under what's called Temporary Protected Status. And the Department of Homeland Security says the law calls for the United States to terminate that status, which will be done. NPR's Carrie Kahn has been following this story. She's on the line. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, good morning.

INSKEEP: Why make this move?

KAHN: The - we just heard from DHS officials - Department Homeland Security officials - senior officials in the administration - that the conditions that happened when in the country, in El Salvador, when TPS was granted in 2001, that they no longer are there. And so - that they are revoking this protective - protection that they had.

INSKEEP: So wait a minute. Let's remember here in 2001 what was going wrong in El Salvador that suggested to the United States that people in the U.S. should be given protected status and not be forced to go home.

KAHN: There were two major earthquakes that hit the Central American country that year, and it was George Bush who granted the Temporary Protected Status then. And what DHS officials have said today is that those conditions are no longer there. The - what happened after the earthquake has been repaired - schools, hospitals. It is much better when you look at the earthquake - compared to 2001, and it is time for Salvadorans to go home.

INSKEEP: What does this mean immediately for 200,000 people?

KAHN: Well, what was - one thing that was interesting, that they gave the final number. It's 262,500 people. So that's a little bit larger than we had thought. But what does it mean is that they have 18 months where - they said they have given them a reprieve of 18 months so that they can collect their belongings, make for an orderly return and also help the Salvadoran government process all the amount of people that they say will go home after this.

INSKEEP: Eighteen months, which sounds like a nice, good transition period, but aren't we talking about people who have been in the United States long enough that they've gotten jobs, they've bought houses, they've had children in many cases?

KAHN: Yes. These people have been here before 2001. I think the average they said is 21 years. Over - nearly 200,000 U.S.-born children from the TPS recipients live now in the United States. Ninety-five percent or a high 90 percent of them have jobs. Many have their own businesses. They have established roots in the United States. It's going to be incredibly difficult for many of these people to go home.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. You just said nearly 200,000 U.S.-born children. So these are United States citizens now whose parents are being told get out of the country pretty soon. And I guess some of those children may be adults now, but some of them may be forced to leave the country with their parents.

KAHN: Yes. And on this call with senior Trump administration officials, they were asked what do you suggest for these nearly 200,000 U.S.-born children? And they said, that is not our concern nor it is - is a personal, private decision that needs to be made.

INSKEEP: Is this different than you might have heard with TPS decisions from previous administrations?

KAHN: It's clear that this - that there was no leeway in this decision-making. They took a strict interpretation - the DHS secretary took a strict interpretation of the law that said if the situation is better from the original reason why they were given the TPS, which were these earthquakes, then - that it's time to terminate that. That is a different interpretation - no leeway or any sort of movement. There's a different sheriff in town for sure.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Kahn, thanks.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.