American Gateways, one of Texas’ largest immigration legal service providers, called on the Trump administration to rescind Monday’s decision to end legal protection for more than 36,000 Salvadoran residents who were legally allowed to live and work in this country through temporary protected status.
The organization joined numerous immigrant advocates across the country who denounced the White House decision to end the decades-long program, commonly called TPS, and called on Congress to find a permanent legislative solution.
“Over almost two decades, our clients have diligently re-registered for this status: paying fees, submitting to background checks, and enduring the persistent ambiguity surrounding the future of the lives they have built in this community,” American Gateways wrote in a statement. “To terminate the TPS program now, without any pathway to remain in the United States, is a betrayal of American values.”
El Salvador gained TPS designation in 2001 after a powerful earthquake and multiple aftershocks killed an estimated 1,100 people and resulted in more than 2,500 missing residents. Its TPS designation had been continuously renewed since then due to El Salvador’s gang-related violence as well as food and water insecurity. Now Salvadoran TPS recipients have until Sept. 9, 2019, to legally stay in the United States.
“The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador is heartbreaking,” said Austin’s Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, who is also chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s committee on migration. “As detailed in our recent delegation trip report to the region, El Salvador is currently not in a position to adequately handle the return of the roughly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS recipients (across the country). Today’s decision will fragment American families, leaving over 192,000 U.S. citizen children of Salvadoran TPS recipients with uncertain futures. Families will be needlessly separated because of this decision.”
Austin-based immigration lawyer Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch said her law firm has been reaching out to affected clients to educate them about lawful alternatives to staying in the country.
“There’s still a deportation system that has to be followed,” she said. (Salvadoran TPS recipients) should talk about their individual situations with their attorneys.”
Lincoln-Goldfinch also cautioned that affected families be on the lookout for potential scams and recommended they seek advice only from licensed attorneys and credible nonprofit groups. Members of the Salvadoran community should look out for announcements about TPS re-registration in the coming days and weeks, according to American Gateways, which has offices in Austin, San Antonio and Waco.
“People are just feeling weary,” Lincoln-Goldfinch said. “They’re anxious about what’s coming next.”