The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it will not renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans.
The temporary immigration status has allowed Salvadorans to stay and work without fear of deportation in the U.S. in the wake of devastating earthquakes that hit the Central American country in 2001.
The administration says Salvadoran TPS holders have until Sept.9, 2019 to leave the U.S. or make arrangements for another legal status before they become eligible for deportation.
There are an estimated 200,000 TPS recipients from El Salvador living in the U.S. with more than 6,000 recipients living in Massachusetts, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Salvadorans represent the largest share of a TPS holders in Massachusetts' immigrant community.
In November, the Trump administration announced the end of TPS for Haitians, leaving close to 5,000 Haitian immigrants in Massachusetts uncertain of their future.
The humanitarian protective status is granted to citizens of countries where war or natural disasters make it unsafe to return to their home country. It is made by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and renewed at the secretary's discretion.
While living in the U.S. with TPS, an immigrant cannot be deported, even if they arrived in the U.S. without permission. They are also eligible for employment authorization.
Rep. Jim McGovern, who represents the Second Congressional District in Massachusetts, firmly condemned the administration's move to dismantle TPS, a law he helped draft, for Salvadorans.
“America has a proud legacy as a beacon of hope to the world, welcoming those who seek a better life. This decision by President Trump and Secretary Nielsen is a shameful and cynical move to punish these innocent families just to score political points with the extreme right wing Republican base. I am angry and dismayed at this cruel decision. It is a very distorted and narrow interpretation of the law, which provides flexibility to weigh current realities and not just the effects of the 2001 earthquake in El Salvador," he said in a statement.
This report was originally published by WBUR.