DHS Extends Protected Status for El Salvadorans, Blames 2001 Earthquake

By Brittany M. Hughes | January 9, 2015 | 2:34pm EST

(CNSNews.com) -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week once again extended Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for more than 200,000 El Salvadorans currently living in the United States, blaming continued damages in the Latin American country from an earthquake that occurred there nearly 14 years ago.

(AP Photo)

Under the latest in a long line of TPS extensions, the DHS, under the authority of Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, extended TPS status to qualified El Salvadorans for an additional 18 months until at least September 2016. Those approved for TPS protection are not subject to deportation and can obtain a work permit.

Temporary Protection Status was first given to El Salvadorans in 2001 under the Bush administration after two major earthquakes killed more than 1,000 El Salvadorans, injured thousands more, and displaced many families from their homes. Since that time, the TPS has continued to be granted to El Salvadorans who came to the United States seeking refuge for  nearly 14 years now.

Under U.S. law,  Temporary Protection Status can be granted to individuals from certain countries, provided “there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected.”

According to a Federal Register notice issued Wednesday, the DHS, along with the State Department, has determined the damage from the earthquake that occurred a decade-and-a-half ago continues to warrant TPS status for those El Salvadorans who were affected and now live in the U.S.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“Over the past year, DHS and the Department of State (DOS) have continued to review conditions in El Salvador,” the notice read. “Based on this review and after consulting with DOS, the Secretary has determined that an 18-month extension is warranted because the disruption in living conditions in affected areas of El Salvador resulting from the environmental disaster that prompted the March 9, 2001 designation persists.”

DHS added that El Salvador has a reported housing deficit of 446,000, claiming that “this shortage would be exacerbated by the return of thousands of Salvadoran nationals currently residing in the United States under TPS.”

While damage caused by the earthquakes in 2001 was the primary reason given for extending TPS status, the DHS also listed water pollution, tropical storms, several other earthquakes, flooding, droughts, economic hardships, a “leaf rust epidemic” that’s killing the country’s coffee plants and “other [disasters] not detailed herein” as other rationales to continue allowing protected El Salvadorans to stay in the United States.

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The Federal Register notice went on to state that “these environmental disasters, as well as others not detailed herein, have caused substantial setbacks to infrastructure recovery and development since the 2001 earthquakes.”

“There continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption in living conditions in El Salvador as a result of environmental disaster,” the DHS stated in the notice. “El Salvador continues to be unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return of its nations (or aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in El Salvador).”

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, Honduras is the most long-term TPS designated country protected by the DHS, having obtained that status in 1999. El Salvador and Nicaragua have been designated as TPS countries since 2001. 

Other TPS countries include Haita (2011) Somolia (2012), Sudan (2013), Sierra Leone (2014), Liberia (2014), Guinea (2014), South Sudan (2014), and Syria (2015).

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