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Trump ends TPS for 260,000 Salvadoran immigrants

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Immigrants, activists and elected US officials hold a press conference to demand that the Department of Homeland Security extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans on January 8, 2018 in New York. (Photo by AFP)

The Trump administration has ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 260,000 immigrants from El Salvador and has terminated their provisional residency permits, giving them less than two years to leave the country or be deported.

The TPS designation allowed immigrants from El Salvador to live and work in the US since 2001, when a pair of earthquakes crippled much of the Central American nation in the midst of a civil war.

The administration says it will give the Salvadorans until September 9, 2019, to leave the United States or find a way to obtain a green card, according to a Monday statement by the Department of Homeland Security.

Senior administration officials said an "interagency review process" considered the conditions in El Salvador and its ability to take back its citizens in the decision, the Hill reported. This basically means the Trump administration believes that conditions in El Salvador have improved enough since the earthquakes to no longer warrant the TPS designation.

TPS benefits are awarded to foreign citizens residing in the US whose home countries undergo devastating natural or man-made disasters, making a return dangerous or unsustainable.

Every president since George W Bush routinely renewed the TPS status of Salvadorans, allowing many to create permanent lives in the US. More than half of all Salvadoran immigrants have lived in the US for 20 years or more, according to the Center for Migration Studies while 10 percent are married to legal residents.

El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, host to persistent gang-based violence despite government efforts to quell criminal groups like MS-13. El Salvador was ranked the third most dangerous nation on the globe by the World Economic Forum in 2017. It is also one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, with a per-capita GDP of around $4,200.

The Salvadorans are among the nearly 1 million immigrants whose lives in the United States have been upended and set to a deadline under Trump. The largest group, nearly 700,000 who were protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will lose their legal status beginning in March.

Amnesty International decried the decision, claiming the US "could be sending people to their deaths."

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