Trump Administration Extends Validity of Work Permits for El Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status Through January 4, 2021

The United States Extends Work Permits for El Salvadorans

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

It has become a regular occurrence for the Trump administration to announce a new restriction on immigrant rights.  Thus, it is noteworthy whenever the Trump administration makes an announcement that even somewhat expands immigrant rights.  Such is the case with the announcement on October 28 that the Trump administration has extended the validity of work permits for El Salvadorans with temporary protected status (so-called “TPS”) through January 4, 2021.

As background, TPS allows certain immigrants to remain in the United States and work legally without deportation if during the time they were in the United States something catastrophic happened in their country of origin that prevents their safe return (such as ongoing armed conflict or environmental disaster).  Thousands of El Salvadorans were allowed to stay in the United States based on TPS as a result of major earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001.

In January, 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would terminate TPS for El Salvadorans, and a January 2, 2020 termination date for TPS for El Salvadorans appeared imminent (subject to the litigation described below) before the October 28 announcement.  However, the Trump administration apparently has now changed its mind and moved the January 2, 2020 termination date by approximately 1 year to January 4, 2021.          

As stated in a release from the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), “The Trump Administration is extending the validity of work permits for El Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) through January 4, 2021.  Additionally, the Trump Administration is providing El Salvadorans with TPS an additional 365 days after the conclusion of the TPS-related lawsuits to repatriate back to their home country. Under President Bukele’s leadership, El Salvador has been a trusted and reliable partner in addressing the crisis at the southwest border and repatriating Salvadorian nationals. 

The U.S. looks forward to El Salvador’s continued cooperation in building asylum capacity and commitment to stopping illegal migration in the region. The United States is the most humanitarian country on earth and will continue to be. TPS is a legal mechanism to provide temporary status for some foreigners who need humanitarian relief.

The Administration’s goal is to create an orderly and responsible process to repatriate Salvadorans and help them return home; however, a sudden inflow of 250,000 individuals to El Salvador could spark another mass migration to the U.S. and reinvigorate the crisis at the southern border.  Taking into account these concerns, we have decided to provide additional time to work out that plan. We cannot allow the progress the President has made the past several months to be negated”.      

This announcement of additional time for El Salvadorans with TPS was part of “a number of documents . . . signed” between the United States and El Salvador that were announced on October 28 “to implement greater collaboration on information sharing, border and aviation security, and international diplomacy” (as described in the DHS release). 

There is 1 other aspect to the issue of termination of TPS for El Salvadorans – litigation.  In October 2018, a federal court in California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s effort to terminate TPS for El Salvadorans (as well as TPS for immigrants from  Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan). As this litigation (Ramos v. Nielsen) is still pending, the release from DHS refers to “providing El Salvadorans with TPS an additional 365 days after the conclusion of the TPS-related lawsuits to repatriate back to their home country”.  

While the October 28 action by the Trump administration is certainly beneficial for El Salvadoran immigrants covered by TPS, it only defers by approximately 1 year to January 4, 2021, and does not ultimately prevent, the deportation of El Salvadoran immigrants based on the termination of TPS for them.  On the other hand, litigation, if successful, could continue TPS for El Salvadoran immigrants without termination and prevent deportation – a better and more long-term result for immigrants.

This point shows the importance of litigation for immigrants to more broadly protect their rights. To prevail in litigation, immigrants need to have representation from qualified immigration litigation counsel, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has had years of experience and success in representing immigration clients.  If you need help with any TPS issue or any other immigration issue, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for legal assistance.