Salvadorian immigrants under TPS face uncertain future

By Paula Machado, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018, 7:32 PM EST

Nearly 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador will now have to find a new place to call home.

  • TPS for Salvadorians to end in 2019
  • Thousands of immigrants could lose legal status
  • 4,000 Salvadorians will be affected in Florida alone

"We're talking about 17 years of this status. People have re-established their lives. For the government to come say now you have to go elsewhere can be problematic,” said immigration attorney Henry Lim.

The Trump administration recently announced it’s ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorians in 2019, meaning thousands will lose their legal status.

Wilmer Perlera was one of those thousands living legally in the U.S. for more than 20 years.

“Things in El Salvador are worse, much worse. You have to pay gangs to be safe,” Perlera said.

He was granted TPS in 2001 after El Salvador became a war-torn country.             

"It provides relief against deportation and at the same time provides work authorization and travel permission when deemed appropriate,” Lim said.

That’s the biggest difference in this humanitarian immigration relief -- folks can travel out of the country while under TPS, but as the name states, it’s only temporary.

"Programs such as DACA and TPS they provide the short term relief and once you have that short term relief, it is upon these individuals to try and find, if possible, some sort of long-term solution,” Lim explained.

There aren't always many options for the working families who’ve lived in the U.S. for decades under TPS. Just in Florida, around 4,000 Salvadorians will be affected.

“These are people that are working in the restaurants you go to, the businesses next door, big and small companies," Lim said. “They provide very much to this economy, and removing 4,000 just from this area alone is very problematic.”

The biggest concern for Lim is that out of fear, many of the immigrants currently protected under TPS won’t seek help to find a permanent solution.

“Come 2019, your program will end, and you will not have another work permit. You will not have another way of renewing your driver's license in the state of Florida, of obtaining insurance to drive a car,” Lim said. “There’s a lot of things that will be impacted in 2019 when this program ends, so it is crucial that you seek help now and don’t wait until that last minute.”

In Perlera’s case, he's married to a US citizen and is in the process of getting his permanent residency. He considers the U.S. his home.

"This is a country of opportunity, and it's where I can provide for my family and keep them safe,” he expressed.

El Salvador is one of 10 countries currently designated to Temporary Protective Status, but Trump’s Administration has already terminated several of the countries’ TPS.