After nearly 20 years legally working and living in the US, a new rule by the Department of Homeland Security will rescind protections allowing upwards of 250,000 Salvadorans to stay in the country, potentially forcing those protected to be deported to their native El Salvador.

In 2001, an earthquake rocked El Salvador, devastating the country. The earthquake measured between 7.7 and 7.9 on the Richter scale, with at least 944 people killed, and another 5,565 injured. The quake destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, public buildings, and infrastructure. Within a month, the nation had over 2,500 aftershocks, doing more damage before anything could be repaired in the first place.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled the devastation, with over 250,000 settling in the US. Then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft issued an offer of temporary protected status (TPS) for those in the country. In the intervening years, the TPS has been rolled over, in part due to the fact that El Salvador has never recovered from the quake and its aftershocks, and it remains, according to our own government, “unable…to handle adequately the return of its nationals.”

This is the fourth time since his inauguration that the president’s administration has announced they would rescind TPS protections. In the summer, thousands of Haitians fled on foot to Montreal, Canada, after the president threatened to rescind TPS protection (which eventually happened in November 2017) for those who fled to the US after the 2010 earthquake that left the nation without electricity and clean water. Haitians cannot return since 2016 saw the country further devastated by Hurricane Matthew.

TPS protections are a form of humanitarian aid that the government provides. This form of immigration allows people already in the country (often without papers) to stay while building a life. Both the GOP and the Democratic party have continued to support the TPS program for decades. Those here under TPS must pay a $495 processing fee every 18 months when they reapply, must keep a clean criminal record, and pass a background check, and in return, they can work legally, while staving off deportation.

Between slowly pulling TPS from the nations enrolled in the program (currently 10: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, with El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras being pulled from the program), and the plans to rescind DACA, millions of legally documented people could be deported in the next 18 months.

The administration, in place of these protections, wants to enact what they describe as a “merit-based” immigration scheme, a points-based system that would only allow “highly skilled” workers into the country. While the plan has been mentioned numerous times, as of yet, there has been no official plan or action on how to roll out such an idea.

Do you know someone whose family may be affected by TPS deportations? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)