As many as 220,000 Salvadorans live in the United States illegally, but are immune from deportation under "Temporary Protected Status" or "TPS" as it is known. TPS protects Salvadorans from deportation as a form of relief to their home country as it struggled to rebuild from the 2001 earthquakes.
The Miami Herald now reports that it is increasingly likely that TPS will not be renewed after it expires in the fall, making all 220,000 Salvadorans susceptible to immediate deportation:
One senior administration official involved with Latin American issues said that DHS officials he described as ''criminal justice types'' have decided that TPS for the Central Americans must end.
''It's a decision that can yet be changed, but really it's almost at the last stages,'' the official said. He and other administration officials interviewed for this story requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Another official said some government members want to keep TPS or devise ''an exit strategy'' that would end the program but look for ways to avoid the public relations nightmare of having thousands of Central Americans being deported. DHS is still consulting with State Department and other U.S. agencies before making a final decision, officials added.
This would be a tremendous blow to El Salvador, and Tony Saca is lobbying hard to have TPS renewed. El Salvador has no jobs for 220,000 returning countrymen, and would also lose the income flow from remittances they were sending back home. It will be a test of just how much reward Saca gets for being George Bush's most loyal ally in Latin America. It helps explain why Saca just announced that Salvadoran troops will remain in Iraq for an additional period of time.