Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Temporary Protected Status

The US government announced in February that Temporary Protected Status or "TPS" will be extended for another 12 month period from September 9, 2006 until September 9, 2007. Salvadoran nationals are eligible for this status if they have been continually in the US since February 13, 2001, have committed no crimes and have registered during each preceding 12 month period. Persons registered under TPS are not subject to being deported back to El Salvador, even if their original arrival in the US was illegal. TPS includes work authorization from the federal government allowing TPS enrollees to be legally employed. The time period for registering for the extension begins Monday, July 3, and lasts for sixty days until September 1, 2006. The Salvadoran government has information in English and Spanish on its US embassy website, and will make a big push to get the 225,000 eligible Salvadorans in the US to re-enroll.

The TPS program is justified as a humanitarian measure for countries recovering from natural disasters, in El Salvador's case, the 2001 earthquakes. From the US Department of Homeland Security:

After reviewing the country conditions and consulting with the appropriate Government agencies, the Secretary of Homeland Security determined that conditions in El Salvador continue to exist. The Government of El Salvador remains engaged in earthquake reconstruction activities with USAID assistance. Despite USAID's 170 million dollar disaster reconstruction program, reconstruction projects remain incomplete and the U.S. embassy in El Salvador estimates that the programs will not be completed in less than 24 months.

According to El Salvador's Vice Ministry of Housing, only 46 percent of the total number of houses destroyed or damaged had been reconstructed or repaired as of January 2006. Housing programs funded by the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank were still underway, with the target dates for completion set for 2006 and 2007, respectively. Moreover, as of January 2006, reconstruction of the countryÂ’s seven main hospitals were still pending, awaiting the completion of engineering designs and bidding procedures. The target date for the completion of the hospitals is now set at 2007.

The incomplete reconstruction programs translate into a continued deficit in low-cost housing and a lack of access to hospital-based healthcare services for many communities. Moreover, El Salvador has not been able to fully recover, in part due to the 2005 eruption of the Santa Ana volcano that was immediately followed by mudslides and flooding caused by Hurricane Stan.

Based upon this review, the Secretary of Homeland Security, after consultation with appropriate Government agencies, determined that the conditions that prompted designation of El Salvador for TPS continue to be met. There continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption in living conditions in El Salvador as the result of an environmental disaster, and El Salvador continues to be unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return of its nationals. On the basis of these findings, the Secretary concludes that the TPS designation for El Salvador should be extended for an additional 12-month period.

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