WASHINGTON – Several dozen immigrants gathered in front of the White House on Monday to protest the US government’s decision to cancel the Temporary Protected Status program for Salvadorans.
A total of 263,282 Salvadorans benefitted up through the end of 2016 from the TPS program, which was launched in 2001 to protect citizens of that country living in the US from deportation after the devastating earthquakes that struck their homeland early that year, and it was also authorized years earlier for Salvadorans who fled their country’s civil war.
“Congress, fix it now!” chanted activist Jaime Contreras, with the Service Employees International Union, who headed an improvised march protesting the move just an hour after the TPS cancellation by the Donald Trump administration became official.
Surrounded by immigrants from assorted countries who feel threatened by the immigration policies adopted by the US since January 2017, Contreras and members of other organizations defending immigrants’ rights chanted slogans against the president.
Trump recently had already cancelled TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans, as well as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected from deportation undocumented migrants who were brought to this country as minors.
Contreras said that the move to eliminate TPS for Salvadorans was not “a surprise” for him, adding that “after hearing (Trump’s) rhetoric” as a presidential candidate, “now it’s a reality.”
The government granted an 18-month grace period starting in March for Salvadorans living in the US so that they can prepare to either leave the country or find an alternative way to legalize their immigration status.
During this time, Contreras said, lawmakers will have to work to find a permanent solution for the affected migrants.
The organizer of the CASA association, Sara Ramirez, said that the US had disrupted many Salvadorans’ lives with its involvement in that country’s civil war and called upon Trump to learn “a little history.”
TPS was created under the 1989-1993 presidency of George H.W. Bush, when Congress established a procedure whereby the government could authorize – given extraordinary circumstances – temporary residence and work permits for nationals of countries affected by armed conflicts, epidemics or natural disasters.