On Tuesday, July 13th the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to undocumented Salvadorans living in the United States. TPS is granted to undocumented immigrants who cannot return to their home countries safely because extraordinary and temporary conditions, such as armed conflicts or environmental disasters. Under TPS, undocumented foreign nationals may obtain work permits, but they must remain in the U.S., (they forfeit their protected status if they leave for any reasons), and TPS does not serve as a route to citizenship. Instead, once the TPS is lifted or expires, immigrants return to the same status they had before receiving TPS.
TPS for Salvadorans began in February of 2001 after a series of severe earthquakes devastated El Salvador. The 18-month extension, which expires March 9, 2012, allows undocumented Salvadorans who were living in the U.S. at the time that the original TPS was issued to legally remain in the country.
Approximately 217,000 Salvadorans are currently in the U.S. with Temporary Protected Status, and it is expected that the vast majority will renew their status in order to remain in the country until 2012. Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes hailed the U.S. decision, saying the extension “is the product of the strong ties between El Salvador and the United States to reduce poverty, crimes and delinquency” (San Fernando Valley Sun). Some, however, have criticized TPS as a band-aid solution that only delays comprehensive and permanent immigration reform, noting that it has ceased being “temporary” (Miami Herald).
Not all undocumented Salvadorans in the U.S. are protected under TPS, however. Any Salvadorans who entered the country after 3cFebruary 2001 are ineligible, as are those who were originally protected, but have left the country for any length of time in the interim, or those who have failed to comply with the required registration process. Under the new extension, Salvadorans have until September 7, 2010 to re-register, and are encouraged to do so as early as possible to provide time for the necessary background checks. The re-registration itself is free, however there is an $80 biometric services fee for applicants 14 and older, and a $340 fee for the I-765 form, Application for Employment Authorization, for those who wish to receive a renewed work permit along with their renewed protected status. Those who cannot afford to pay the fees may request a waiver and must submit paperwork to document their inability to pay. Failure to pay or submit the paperwork will result in rejection of the entire application. This may mean that some families experience financial hardship or are unable to pay the necessary funds to renew their protected status.
TPS was recently extended for immigrants from two other Central American countries, Honduras and Nicaragua. Undocumented citizens of Haiti, Somalia and Sudan are also protected under TPS.